Trump defends using DOD funds on border wall: 'Some of the generals think that this is more important'

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 said Friday that top Pentagon brass supported his idea to repurpose military construction funds to help build his long-promised wall along the southern border.

“Some of the generals think this is more important,” Trump told reporters during a White House Rose Garden press conference in which he announced he is declaring a national emergency on border security.


“We had certain funds that are being used at the discretion of generals, at the discretion of the military. Some of them haven’t been allocated yet, and some of the generals think that this is more important.”

He continued: “I was speaking to a couple of them. They think this is far more important than what they were going to use it for. I said ‘what were you going to use it for?’ And I won’t go into details but [it] didn’t sound too important to me.”

The White House for weeks has indicated it will shift about $3.6 billion in military construction funds to build Trump’s border wall, claiming the money can be moved without hurting military readiness. Officials have also said dollars meant for defense construction projects will be put back in next year’s defense budget.

Trump, who issued the emergency declaration to bypass Congress and build $8 billion in barriers on the border, said moving the money is necessary due to “an invasion of drugs, invasion of gangs, invasion of people.”

He pointed to the fiscal 2018 and 2019 Pentagon budgets as justification for taking the funds.

“I’ve gotten $700 billion for the military in year one, and then last year $716 billion, and we’re rebuilding our military, but we have a lot. ... When I need $2 billion, $3 billion, out of that for a wall ... this is a very, very small amount that we’re asking for.”

Ahead of Trump’s announcement, lawmakers pushed back on the idea of raiding Pentagon coffers to pay for a wall.

“The Military Construction funding process is rigorous. The five-year plan comes from all service branches prioritizing key projects and the Committee funding it. Whether it’s dry docks or clinics or [hangars] or runways, there is not [$3.5 billion] to remove without dire consequences,” Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel Schatz Advocate says Trump administration's new proposal would do 'absolutely nothing' to alleviate student debt Hillicon Valley: Huawei official asks US to ease restrictions | Facebook loses top execs | Defense officials hit Google over China | Pro-Trump 'safe space' app pulled over security flaw | Senators offer bill on facial recognition technology Senators introduce bill to regulate facial recognition technology MORE (Hawaii), the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee's military construction panel, wrote on Twitter on Friday.

And House Armed Services Committee ranking member Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryPentagon: Trump's 'cost plus 50' plan hasn't been discussed with Europe Top Republican says B in Pentagon budget for wall should go to defense Overnight Defense: Trump seeks 0B for defense in 2020 budget | Lawmakers invite NATO chief to address Congress | Top envoy says North Korea denuclearization can't be done 'incrementally' MORE (R-Texas) said in a statement Thursday that he encourages Trump “not to divert significant Department of Defense funding for border security.”

“Doing so would have detrimental consequences for our troops as military infrastructure was one of the accounts most deprived during the Obama-era defense cuts. And it would undercut one of the most significant accomplishments of the last two years – beginning to repair and rebuild our military. I hope that the President will pursue other options,” Thornberry wrote.