JILL COLVIN, LISA MASCARO, COLLEEN LONG and LOLITA C. BALDOR
Associated Press

The Trump administration is considering using billions in unspent disaster relief funds earmarked for areas including hurricane-pounded Puerto Rico and Texas to pay for President Donald Trump’s border wall as he weighs signing a national emergency declaration to get it built without Congress.

The White House has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to comb through its budget, including $13.9 billion in emergency funds that Congress earmarked last year, to see what money could be diverted to the wall as part of a declaration. That’s according to a congressional aide and administration official familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

It is the latest sign that the administration is laying the groundwork for a possible emergency order as negotiations between Trump and congressional Democrats to reopen the partially shuttered government have ground to a halt. Trump is demanding billions for his wall that Democrats won’t give him. In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of federal workers are missing paychecks Friday.

Trump on Thursday gave his strongest public indication yet that he is leaning toward an emergency declaration as he traveled to the Texas border to continue to press his case for the wall.

Trump told reporters as he left the White House that he was still holding out hope for a deal, but that if it “doesn’t work out, probably I will do it. I would almost say definitely.”

The wall was the central promise of Trump’s presidential campaign, and supporters of the declaration strategy have been arguing to the president that an emergency declaration is his best option available to end the shutdown, giving him political cover to re-open the government without appearing to cave on the wall. Trump, they argue, then would be able to tell his supporters that he did all he could to fight for the wall, even if his order is stalled or blocked by the courts.

Nearly $14 billion in emergency disaster relief funds have been allocated but not yet obligated through contracts for a variety of projects in states including California, Florida and Texas and in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico that have been ravaged by recent hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters, according to the aide familiar with the matter.

The money funds a variety of projects, mostly flood control to prevent future disasters.

A second official with knowledge of the proposal said it would fund construction of about 315 miles (500 kilometers) of border barrier. Right now, barriers blanket about one-third of the 1,954-mile (3,145-kilometer) border with Mexico.

An emergency declaration would draw immediate legal challenge from Democrats, who have accused Trump of trying to manufacture a crisis at the southern border to justify his wall. Critics have said the move would be an unconstitutional abuse of emergency powers. Trump said Thursday that his lawyers have told him he has the “absolute right.”

Republican and Democratic lawmakers raised immediate concerns over shifting funds that have already been approved by Congress for projects in states across the nation.

But even some Republican lawmakers uneasy about the idea of pulling money from Army Corps projects saw few alternate options. One said the phone calls coming into his office were overwhelmingly in favor of Trump’s border wall.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, has been in conversations with the White House on a trio of legislative alternatives. But he said those options seem less likely now without Democratic backing for some money for Trump’s border plan.

Unless Republicans and Democrats compromise, he said, “I fully expect him to declare a national emergency.”

Meadows, who speaks frequently with Trump, sees the emergency declaration as the “last tool” the president has.

“Most conservatives want it to be the last resort he would use,” Meadows said. “But those same conservatives, I’m sure, if it’s deployed, would embrace him as having done all he could do to negotiate with Democrats.”

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Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Battle for the Wall….

    Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh are now the new Trump Electoral College.

    Trump is playing to his political base. How large is the base 35% of the electorate?

    Trump loves the attention….He tries to simulate a mishmash of concepts taken from the WWE (CHAOS ACTORS), The Apprentice (YOUR FIRED), Archie Bunker (THE BIGOT EXSTORDINARY), Clint Eastwood Movies, The Bachelor (CHAUVINISM), and the Bachelorette (Misandry)!!!

    By the way how will Trump’s MEDICORE, SECOND-RATE, COMMON PLACE wall protect us from the nuclear bombs as they fly over his MEDICORE, SECOND-RATE, COMMON PLACE wall as they rain down upon “WE THE PEOPLE” from IRAN, and from his pals in NORTH KOREA, RUSSIA AND CHINA?
    Mr. SO-CALLED-PRESIDENT, you have a bigger problem than your imaginary enemies north and south of our borders!!!
    By the way, Trump and his some Republican congressional members have a very short memory regarding who won the majority of the POPULAR VOTE!!!! HILLARY CLINNTON and even better “WE THE MAJOITY OF THE PEOPLE”!!! We don’t support the 5 billion dollar request for just a barrier!!!
    We want a complete statement regarding how the money will be used to protect the border.
    What is really FUNNY is that the MEDIA treats Trump’s LIVE REALITY show of the Institution of the Presidency of the United States, as though the staged events are real and therefore not critiquing TRUMP’S FAKE SHOWS for what they really are….BS!!!!

    Trump was sworn into office stating the following ……I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

    The Constitution of the United States begins with the Preamble….
    “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    Notice the preamble starts with “WE THE People….”, Not (We the Coulter, Ingraham, Hannity and Limbaugh…..).

    Remember when Trump, Chuck and Nancy talked and Trump said he is proud to shut down the government and would gladly take the mantel and responsibility for shutting down the government over the funding of his wall for $5 billion.
    The audio and video will verify that which he stated above viewed using the following links …..

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-guwyA8wxVQ
    https://apnews.com/b03a8638fcae4d64ad73bf96a46f0f28

    Now Trump is PROUD of keeping the government partially shut down!!!!! HELL WHY NOT HIS POCKETS ARE FULL OF CASH TO LIVE UNLIKE THOSE WHO ARE BEING SHUT OUT!!!
    gapsm1234@gmail.com

  2. Trump at the Rio Grande …..
    This is without a doubt extremely humorous. Trump goes to the Rio Grande to I guess check out the possible placement of his wall. Where can you place the wall, in the water, on the US side of the Rio Grande or Mexico’s side of the Rio Grande?
    If Trump is going to pick the locations to build it is no wonder Pelosi keeps saying no!!!!
    .
    As Trump keeps whining, bullying and threatening to steal money from funds used for disasters he is only concerned about his need to win he forgets that as a builder of “FINE BUILDINS” LOLLOLLOL, he would ask for a complete detailed contract as to the details of the job.
    “We the People” also want a complete statement regarding how the money you requested will be spent to build the border protection including a detailed description of the construction of the wall. We want to know about additional personnel, weapons, uniforms, hardware, cost for maintenance over 10 years.
    I believe anyone, including your supporters, who have built something, or improved something or fixed something wanted to know the costs and the new material they are purchasing for the job. They want to know all the details. How else will we know if we are getting the quality for our dollars spent?
    We want the details of how our border is going to be improved, what is going to be improved or added and the 10 year maintenance requirements. That is what Pelosi wants then maybe she might make a deal.
    gapsm1234@gmail.com

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