Trump on declaring national emergency: 'Not going to do it so fast'

 
The president’s decision to pull back from his threat to declare an emergency indicates the White House is bracing for the partial government shutdown over the wall, now in its 21st day, to drag on.
 
Trump told reporters at the White House that he has the authority to make an emergency declaration to jump-start wall construction, but said, “I’m not going to do it so fast.”
 
“It's the easy way out, but Congress should do this,” he said, adding he would “rather not” declare an emergency because it could face court challenges that would delay wall construction for months.
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The president stressed that he prefers to work out a deal with Democrats in Congress, even though no agreement appears to be in sight. Democrats have repeatedly rejected Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion in wall funding and the president has refused to sign legislation to reopen the government without the money.
 
“We want Congress to do its job,” Trump said. “What we're not looking to do right now is national emergency.”
 
He implored Democrats to return to Washington to vote on wall funding, saying they can call the structure whatever they want.
 
“They can name it peaches. I don’t care what they name it,” he quipped.
 
Trump had said for days that he was leaning toward declaring a national emergency to speed up construction of the wall, and his administration had begun internal discussions about how to proceed.
 
During a border visit Thursday that many in Washington saw as a precursor to an emergency declaration, Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity that “if we don’t make a deal with Congress, most likely I will do that.”
 
But a group of Republican lawmakers and White House officials, including Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump's 'soldier of fortune' foreign policy The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Democrats set for Lone Star showdown Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan MORE, have urged Trump not to declare an emergency, saying it is unlikely to result in getting the wall quickly built because of the legal challenges it would draw.
 
 
The White House meanwhile is actively making preparations for the shutdown to last weeks longer, an administration official confirmed to The Hill.
 
The Office of Management and Budget is gearing up for the partial shutdown to continue through February, and aides have discussed using Trump's Jan. 29 State of the Union address to admonish Democrats over their opposition to the wall.
 
The details of those discussions were first reported by The Wall Street Journal
 
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.
 
“It’s clear to both of us that Democrats don’t want to make a deal and will never support border wall/barriers on President Trump’s watch,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan Overnight Defense: Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran | Hostage negotiator chosen for national security adviser | Senate Dems block funding bill | Documents show Pentagon spent at least 4K at Trump's Scotland resort GOP's Kennedy sends warning shot to Trump nominee Menashi MORE (R-S.C.) said after meeting with Trump at the White House. “Mr. President, declare a national emergency now. Build a wall now.”

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 Rep. Dan Crenshaw said Friday he received an assurance from acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump administration asks Supreme Court to take up challenge to consumer bureau NOAA chief praises agency scientists after statement backing up Trump tweet The Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same MORE that funds for Hurricane Harvey relief will not be touched. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) separately said the White House gave him the same guarantee. 

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 CassidyEXCLUSIVE: Swing-state voters oppose 'surprise' medical bill legislation, Trump pollster warns Republicans grumble over Trump shifting military funds to wall Push on 'surprise' medical bills hits new roadblocks MORE (La.) and Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan GOP struggles with retirement wave Lewandowski, Democrats tangle at testy hearing 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: Jan. 12, 2019 at 10:51 a.m.