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Trump says he is considering using emergency powers to build wall

Posted at 1:04 PM, Jan 04, 2019

President Donald Trump said Friday that he is considering using emergency powers which would allow him to use military funding to build a wall on the US-Mexico border, saying "I can do it if I want."

"We can call a national emergency because of the security ... I haven't done it. I may do it but we can call a national emergency and build it very quickly," he said during remarks in the White House Rose Garden.

Trump has repeatedly talked about declaring a national emergency in recent months but hasn't followed through yet, allowing the government to shut down over funding the wall rather than declaring one.

On Friday, he seemed to indicate that he would prefer to secure the funding through Congress.

"If we can do it through the negotiating process, we're giving that a shot," he said.

However, Trump also said he believes he doesn't need congressional approval to build the wall.

"Absolutely," Trump replied. "We can call a national emergency. I haven't done it. I may do it. I may do it. We can call a national emergency and build it very quickly. It's another way of doing it."

Asked if that was a threat to Democrats, Trump said: "I never threaten anybody, but I am allowed to do it -- call a national emergency."

"If we can do it through the negotiating process, we're giving that a shot," he said.

In December, defense officials from the Homeland Defense section of the Pentagon visited the White House for a meeting to discuss the possibility, three US officials have told CNN.

The meeting, which included officials from the Department of Homeland Security, focused on options that would allow Trump to build the border wall by tapping into military funding if he was unable to secure the money he wants from Congress.

Two officials said that the Pentagon believes that there is roughly $1-2 billion that could be set aside from the Defense Department budget to fund this effort.

Using this legal authority to construct border barriers was opposed by Democrats in the House and Senate in letters to then Defense Secretary James Mattis.

The officials said that while no formal direction or orders have been given to tap these funds, defense officials believe that the White House will move to direct the Pentagon to act should Congress prove unable to provide the necessary funding.

In December, several Democratic senators sent a letter to then-Defense Secretary James Mattis expressing opposition to the use of military funds for construction of a border barrier.

"We understand that the department is currently examining other authorities for this roughly $450 million project outside of the budget request process, specifically the potential use of 10 U.S.C. 2808 and 10 U.S.C 284," the letter said.

"As you know, outside of a few small locations requiring security measures for weapons of mass destruction shortly after 9/11, 10 U.S.C. 2808 has never been used inside the United States. We urge you in the strongest possible fashion to refrain from considering using this authority or 10 U.S.C. 284 for this potential $450 million border wall project," it added.