President Donald Trump said Friday that he’s considering using military resources to finish construction of his long-promised border wall instead of relying on Congress to fund the project through the Homeland Security Department’s budget.
He also wouldn’t eliminate the possibility of a government shutdown if Democrats continue to confound his efforts to appropriate money for the project on the U.S.-Mexico border.
‘We have two options,’ he told DailyMail.com aboard Air Force One as he flew from Billings, Montana to Fargo, North Dakota. ‘We have military, we have homeland security.’
He was asked specifically about using the Army Corps of Engineers as a taxpayer-funded construction crew.
Trump said he would prefer to fund the ambitious construction ‘the old-fashioned way – get it from Congress – but I have other options if I have to.’
He’s seeking about $25 billion.
The possibility of diverting Pentagon funding and assets to build a border wall is a hole card the president is holding but has never directly acknowledged before.
Two Defense Department officials told DailyMail.com in August that the Army Corps of Engineers could take on the task.
‘They build levees that hold back massive walls of water,’ one said of the agency. ‘They can build one to hold back drugs and human traffickers.’
The White House appears headed for another confrontation with Congress over an increase in funding for the project after securing $1.6 billion for 2007 and the same amount for this year.
A senior White House official said Thursday that the money was ‘basically a down-payment on the thing’.
The possibility looms that the president will refuse to sign the next federal budget, due September 30, if lawmakers don’t go along with more installments. That would trigger a government shutdown.
‘If it were up – I don’t want to say “up to me,” because it is up to me – I would do it,’ he said aboard Air Force One, ‘because I think it’s a great political issue.’
But he said some Republicans in Congress, facing tough re-election fights, have counseled more patience.
‘They have races, they’re doing well, they’re up,’ Trump explained. ‘And you know, the way they look at it: might be good, might be bad.’
Thursday night in Billings, he told a Fox News Channel interviewer that ‘we need Republicans elected in the midterms’.
‘We are getting the wall done. But I’ve had so many people, good people, great people – they would rather not do [it] before [November]. They’d rather do it right after the election.’
Trump said he still wants to persuade Congress – preferably one reinforced with more Republicans – to write the checks he wants.
‘Politically speaking, I’d rather get it through Congress. If we don’t, I’m looking at that option very seriously,’ he said aboard Air Force One on Friday, referring to the Defense Department.
In Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Friday evening the president assured a crowd of about 600 supporters that ‘we’re building the wall!’
‘It works so easily!’ he said. ‘They say walls don’t work? Tell Israel.’
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Fox News there’s no chance of a government shutdown; a discussion about funding the border wall will happen “after the election”; and repeal and replace “would be difficult to achieve” in this Congress.
On another topic, McConnell said he doesn’t “have any observation to make” about the anonymous op-ed published Wednesday by the New York Times that quotes a “senior official in the Trump administration” as saying, “the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.”
McConnell said he and House Speaker Paul Ryan had a “good discussion” with President Trump on Wednesday, and they expect the president to sign nine of 12 appropriations bills into law very soon.
“I expect him to sign these nine bills into law. That will fund 90 percent of the government for the first time in 20 years before the end of the fiscal year. And then I expect us to do a short-term continuing resolution for the balance of the funding, and then have the discussion about how to fund the wall after the election.”
“We are still in favor of the wall,” McConnell said. “We still want to get funding for the wall, but we think the best time to have that discussion is after the election.”
“No chance, government shutdown?” Baier asked McConnell.
“No chance of a government shutdown,” McConnell agreed. “Zero,” he added.
“Has the ship sailed on repeal and replace Obamacare?” Baier asked. He wondered if newly appointed Sen. John Kyl would vote yes on the bill that the late John McCain torpedoed.
“For this Congress, it would be difficult to achieve,” McConnell said. “I think whether we can achieve it later depends upon the results this fall and the American people have a chance to decide what kind of Congress they want to have going into the next two years.”
Baier asked McConnell what message Republicans are running on for the midterms.
“I think the economy,” McConnell replied. “I mean it’s a red-hot economy. I think the policies of this administration and Congress have made a huge difference, whether it is tax reform or regulatory relief. The country is booming.
“These are record numbers that we are producing on unemployment, on growth, that makes a huge difference in the lives of people all across our nation. And that is a result of this Republican government.
“So we think we have plenty to run on, not to mention the fact that we are transforming the courts — two Supreme Court justices, 26 new circuit judges, making a difference in the lives of every litigant in the country when they go to court.”
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
September 9th, 2018