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Trump teases national emergency declaration could come during SOTU

Roll Call logo Roll Call 2/1/2019 By John T. Bennett
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Video by Reuters

President Donald Trump on Friday said there is a “good chance” he will declare a national emergency at the southern border to unlock Defense Department dollars for a wall, and signaled he may announce it during his State of the Union address Tuesday.

“I think there’s a good chance we’ll have to do that,” Trump said of a possible emergency declaration, which Democrats and pro-immigration groups have said would be met with an immediate legal challenge.

Asked about those promised court challenges, the president seemed newly defiant.

“Well, we have very strong legal standing,” Trump told reporters hours before he is slated to make his first visit to his South Florida resort since Thanksgiving weekend.

He also again signaled he expects any cases to head to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco — a bench he has harshly criticized and said he wants to file a complaint against.

“When they go to the Ninth Circuit, things happen,” he said. “It’s a shame, what they do.”

But the president signaled some answers on his next move could come during Tuesday’s big speech in the House chamber.

“You’ll hear the State of the Union and let’s see what happens,” Trump told reporters during a White House event about human trafficking across the U.S.-Mexico border. A national emergency declaration, he claimed, “does help the process.”

Trump said last week he would turn to an emergency if House and Senate conferees cannot hammer out a border security spending deal to avert another government shutdown by Feb. 15.

He also claimed Democrats fear engaging him about his proposed border wall because they would lose a debate about whether, in his words, “walls work.”

But top Democrats this week made clear they are up for such a debate.

“It’s all about two things — cost-benefit analysis, what’s the best way and what do you get for your dollar to protect the border?” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said.

“And it’s also about — and this will be coming up if [Trump] takes some extraordinary action — the opportunity cost of the money,” she said. “If the money can be used better for technology then let’s see what’s the best [solution]. And by the way, when some of these fences were built, the technology was not what it is today.”

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.

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