The president’s comments Friday may frustrate some of his close GOP allies, who have urged him to make the declaration by arguing negotiations with congressional Democrats have become hopeless.
Several recent polls show Trump bearing most of the blame for the shutdown, political fallout that some Republicans fear could affect the party as a whole.
Friday marks the first day that hundreds of thousands of federal employees will miss their paychecks and agencies, such as the National Park Service, have had to suspend or curtail their operations. On Saturday, the shutdown will set the record for the longest in U.S. history.
Lawmakers left the nation’s capital on Friday after talks between Trump and top Democrats to end the shutdown collapsed in acrimonious fashion and no new meetings have been scheduled.
Trump has sought to highlight ways his administration is trying to ease the pain of the shutdown, confirming in his Friday remarks that he will sign legislation granting federal employees back-pay once the shutdown ends. Congress passed the legislation earlier in the day.
Some GOP lawmakers have nonetheless been eager to find an off-ramp from the standoff as the pain from the shutdown is beginning to be felt.
The White House has looked at $13.9 billion in funding approved by Congress last year as part of a disaster response bill to use for building Trump’s wall in the event he declares an emergency. That bill provided funding for various Army Corps of Engineers projects that has been allocated but not spent.
But that idea received blowback from lawmakers representing states and territories, such as Texas and Puerto Rico, that were hit by devastating hurricanes last year.
Texas GOP Reps. Kevin Brady and Dan Crenshaw said Friday they both received assurances from acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyWhite House aide says taxpayers will pay for border wall Pence seeks GOP unity, urging lawmakers to ‘stand strong’ with Trump The Memo: Absent paychecks may put Trump in bind MORE that funds for Hurricane Harvey relief will not be touched.
An administration official told The Hill the White House is also looking at the possibility of repurposing money in asset-forfeiture funds from the Treasury or Justice Departments to use for the wall.
The idea has been floated by a number of GOP lawmakers, including Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyAcosta mocked for border reporting: ‘Exactly – walls work!’ GOP seeks health care reboot after 2018 losses Shutdown is bad for Republicans, an opportunity for Democrats MORE (La.) and Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsGOP lawmakers rip Dems for calling Cohen to testify Jordan renews call for Rosenstein to testify Here are the lawmakers who will forfeit their salaries during the shutdown MORE (N.C.). The Louisiana senator’s home state could stand to lose funding for flood mitigation projects if money from the Army Corps is used.
Those plans were thrown into doubt by Trump’s latest comments. But the president also made it clear the emergency threat is still on the table.
“Congress should do this,” he said. “It they can’t do it, I will declare a national emergency. I have the absolute right to do it.”
Updated: 4:28 p.m.