Trump criticizes border wall deal: ‘Can’t say I’m happy’

President Trump on Tuesday knocked a bipartisan deal to avert a government shutdown, but suggested he could still get his long-desired border wall built and expressed confidence the government would remain open.

“I’m not happy about it. It’s not doing the trick,” Trump told reporters during a Cabinet meeting at the White House.

“I’m adding things to it, and when you add whatever I have to add, it’s all going to happen where we’re going to build a beautiful, big, strong wall,” the president continued.

{mosads}The government will enter another partial shutdown on Saturday if Trump does not sign the agreement, which was struck by Capitol Hill negotiators just one day earlier and contains only a fraction of the money he demanded for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Trump predicted there would not be a shutdown but added “if you did have it, it’s the Democrats fault.”

“I would hope that there won’t be a shutdown,” he said. “I am extremely unhappy with what the Democrats have given us. It’s sad. They’re doing the country no favors.”

Trump’s comments added fresh uncertainty to the emerging compromise, which must be signed into law by midnight Friday. Roughly one quarter of the federal government, including the Department of Homeland Security, will shut down for the second time this year if the deal fails.

The proposal would provide $1.375 billion in funding for roughly 55 miles of new barriers along the southern border, well short of the $5.7 billion Trump demanded.

In exchange, Democrats dropped their insistence that Congress place a hard cap on the number of immigrants that Immigration and Customs Enforcement is allowed to detain at a given time.

A bipartisan committee reached the deal on Monday night after talks appeared to have reached a stalemate over the weekend amid an intense fight over whether the number of detention beds should be capped. Negotiators cast the deal as the best solution to avert a shutdown.

“You know, would I like to have done more? Absolutely. But in negotiations, you give and take, and we think overall it’s a pretty good deal,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).

{mossecondads}Trump did not say how he would add to the budget deal but he appeared to open the door to redirecting certain federal funding dedicated for other projects toward the wall, a move recently floated by White House advisers to begin wall construction while stopping short of making a controversial national emergency declaration.

“I am not happy. But am I happy with where we’re going? I’m thrilled because we’re supplementing things and moving things around and we’re doing things that are fantastic and taking from far less important areas and the bottom line is we’re building a lot of wall,” Trump said.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday he has already found funds in other accounts that could be repurposed for wall construction, but did not identify specific sources.

“There’s pots of money where presidents, all presidents, have access to without a national emergency. And there’s ones that he will not have access to without that declaration,” Mulvaney said on NBC News’s “Meet the Press.”

The president also did not rule out declaring a national emergency to circumvent Congress to build the wall, saying “I’m considering everything.”

But those moves could face legal challenges that could stymie any attempt to build a wall using the executive authority.

The deal, and Trump’s response to it, came under attack from conservatives who said it would not result in getting the wall built, one of the president’s core campaign promises from 2016.

“Trump talks a good game on the border wall but it’s increasingly clear he’s afraid to fight for it. Call this his ‘Yellow New Deal,’ ” right-wing commentator Ann Coulter tweeted on Tuesday around the same time Trump was speaking.

Trump triggered the last shutdown in December after conservatives blasted him for initially backing a spending deal that included no wall funding. Trump has repeatedly defended his decision, even though it resulted in a massive hit for his approval ratings.

“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished because people learned during that shutdown all about the problems coming in from the southern border,” he said. “I accept it. I’ve always accepted it. But this one, I would never accept it if it happens, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. But this would be totally on the Democrats.”

Trump was also facing pressure from congressional Republicans who are eager to avoid another shutdown. Polls showed GOP lawmakers also received heavy blame for the last funding lapse, which lasted 35 days, caused roughly 800,000 federal workers to miss two paychecks and resulted in major disruptions at airports and national parks.

“I told the president I thought he, as well as all of us, ought to wait until we’ve actually read the final deal. I have recommended that if it becomes what we think it is, I do recommend he sign it,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

“I think the experience is sufficient to show them this does no good at all,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).

While Trump’s remarks suggested he may reluctantly accept the deal, lawmakers were taking a wait-and-see approach. Republicans were caught off-guard in late December when the president reversed himself and decided not to sign the budget agreement.

“I think this thing’s a long way from being over. Nobody should start humming ‘One Shining Moment’ yet,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), referring to the Luther Vandross song that is played on television at the end of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

— Jordain Carney contributed to this report that was updated at 2:15 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump John Kennedy Johnny Isakson Mick Mulvaney Mitch McConnell Richard Shelby
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