White House seeks to clarify Trump remarks on emergency

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday sought to clarify President TrumpDonald John TrumpDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals to visit White House on Monday Transportation Dept requests formal audit of Boeing 737 Max certification MORE’s statement that he “didn’t have to” declare a national emergency at the border, but did so to speed up construction of his long-promised wall.

Asked on Fox News how the White House will deal with the possible legal repercussions of Trump’s statement, Sanders said “the biggest thing is he shouldn’t have to do this.”

“Congress should have stepped up and done their jobs and done everything necessary to fully and safely secure the border,” she added. “The president could have waited and he could have drug this out.”

ADVERTISEMENT

During a rambling, 50-minute news conference announcing the emergency declaration, Trump predicted the move would be challenged in federal court but that he would eventually prevail.

“I could do the wall over a long period of time. I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster,” Trump conceded.

Critics seized upon those remarks to dispute Trump’s assertion that an emergency exists on the southern border that requires unilateral action to build the wall.

“This quote should be the first sentence of the first paragraph of every complaint filed this afternoon,” tweeted George Conway, a lawyer and critic of Trump who is married to White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayGeorge Conway responds to Trump calling him a loser: 'Perfect example of the point I was making' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump steps up attacks on McCain Trump praised George Conway's legal skills in 2006 letter MORE.

Sanders said the $1.375 billion provided by Congress in a spending package “is a great step forward and it is certainly a down payment on the wall, but it doesn’t finish the job.”

“The president is somebody who wants to complete the job. He wants to finish the job,” she added. “He doesn’t want to drag this out over the next several years. He wants to get the funding now so we can stop this national security and humanitarian crisis at the border and take care of it.”