U.S. President Donald Trump hosts a roundtable discussion on border security with State, local, and community leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Jan. 11, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

Trump, on shutdown’s 24th day, says he’s ‘not looking’ to call national emergency

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday seemed to back further away from his threat to declare a national emergency to fund his southern border wall and perhaps resolve the 24-day-old partial government shutdown, demanding instead that Democrats give him the $5.7 billion he wants.

“I’m not looking to call a national emergency,” Trump told reporters on the White House South Lawn. “This is so simple, you shouldn’t have to.”

The president again insisted that he has “the absolute right” to use an emergency declaration to bypass Congress and redirect money in military accounts toward a wall, as conservative media pundits and some far-right Republicans have urged. Yet many Republicans in Congress, while eager to end what is now the longest shutdown in history — polls show significantly more Americans blame them and Trump than Democrats — expressed opposition to an emergency declaration as an unwarranted exercise of presidential power.

“But I’m not looking to do that,” he said.

Democrats, Trump said, “should agree on border security” and end the stalemate. “We should get on with our lives.”

Speaking as he departed for New Orleans, where he will address a convention of farmers, Trump claimed of Democrats that “many of them are calling and saying, ‘We agree with you,'” although he offered no names. He added, “Many of them are calling and many of them are breaking. The Republicans are rock solid.”

In reality, the Democrats have stood firm behind their leaders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York. Republicans, however, are showing splits.

Some politically vulnerable Senate Republicans have stated publicly that they would prefer to end the shutdown and fight separately for additional border security funding, including a wall. But hard-line conservatives tell the president that would be tantamount to accepting defeat and would disappoint his supporters.

Trump said he rejected a proposal by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., for lawmakers to approve a short-term funding bill that would temporarily reopen the government and allow lawmakers a few weeks to negotiate without the disruption that has left about 800,000 federal employees unpaid and has shut down or reduced a variety of essential services.

Reiterating the arguments he made last week, including in a prime-time Oval Office speech to the nation and a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump repeated his claims of a crisis there that demands a sweeping federal response — claims that, thus far, have little moved public opinion or convinced Democrats to negotiate.

“We have a very big crisis on the border, a humanitarian crisis,” Trump said. When he speaks of a humanitarian crisis, he refers to victims of crime by migrants arriving illegally — though government data show U.S. residents commit crime at much higher rates — and not to the wave of families and individuals detained in makeshift centers seeking asylum over his objections.

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