Trump made the threat Thursday, 20 days into a partial shutdown of the government prompted by his demands for border wall funding.
After a reporter asked Trump if his “only option left” was to declare a national emergency, he said it would be “the easy route.”
“I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency, the lawyers have so advised me,” he said Thursday morning outside the White House. “I’m not prepared to do that yet, but if I have to, I will. I have no doubt about it. I will.”
“But the easy route for me would be to call a national emergency and do it,” Trump added.
Also, Trump falsely claimed that he never said Mexico would directly pay for the wall he is now putting on taxpayers.
“When during the campaign I would say Mexico is going to pay for [the wall], obviously I never said this, and I never meant they’re going to write out a check. I said they’re going to pay for it. They are. They are paying with the incredible deal we made called the USMCA.”
Trump made the same talking point days earlier during his Oval Office address.
“The wall will also be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico,” Trump said Tuesday night in a televised speech. That trade deal, the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), would replace the current North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) but has not been approved by Congress. And with Democrats now in control of the House, it seems unlikely that its ratification will become a top priority anytime soon.
The president’s pivot is a far cry from what he promised his supporters in his 2016 presidential campaign: that Mexico would directly pay for the construction, either through “reimbursement” or by deducting costs “from Mexican foreign aid,” among other possible solutions that have not come to fruition.
In April 2016 he sent a memo saying Mexico would directly pay.
“It’s an easy decision for Mexico: make a one-time payment of $5-10 billion to ensure that $24 billion continues to flow into their country year after year,” the memo read.
But if Trump truly thought Mexico would pay for his wall, he would not have allowed a government shutdown that has left an estimated 800,000 federal workers furloughed or working without pay after Congress refused to give him $5 billion from taxpayers for his wall. The shutdown, which has reached its 20th day, has led to the Food and Drug Administration postponing routine checks for food safety and has made air travel less safe as air traffic controllers have worked without pay and safety inspectors have been furloughed. Trump said last week he can “relate” to the unpaid workers, but that “they’ll make adjustments.”
During his Thursday morning meltdown, the president also claimed he was “a professional at technology,” said he didn’t slam a table during a failed meeting with Democratic leaders on Wednesday and called Democrats “crazy.”