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story.lead_photo.caption President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he leaves the White House, Thursday Jan. 10, 2019, in Washington, en route for a trip to the border in Texas as the government shutdown continues. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

MCALLEN, Texas — Taking the shutdown fight to the Mexican border, President Donald Trump edged closer Thursday to declaring a national emergency in an extraordinary end run around Congress to fund his long-promised border wall. Pressure was mounting to find an escape hatch from the three-week impasse that has closed parts of the government, cutting scattered services and leaving hundreds of thousands of workers without pay.

Trump, visiting McAllen, Texas, and the Rio Grande to highlight what he says is a crisis of drugs and crime, said that "if for any reason we don't get this going" — an agreement with House Democrats who have refused to approve the $5.7 billion he demands for the wall — "I will declare a national emergency."

Some 800,000 workers, more than half of them still on the job, were to miss their first paycheck on Friday under the stoppage, and Washington was close to setting a dubious record for the longest government shutdown in the nation's history. Those markers — along with growing effects to national parks, food inspections and the economy overall — left some Republicans on Capitol Hill increasingly uncomfortable with Trump's demands.

Asked about the plight of those going without pay, the president shifted the focus, saying he felt badly "for people that have family members that have been killed" by criminals who came over the border.

Trump was consulting with White House attorneys and allies about using presidential emergency powers to take unilateral action to construct the wall over the objections of Congress. He claimed his lawyers told him the action would withstand legal scrutiny "100 percent."

Such a move to bypass Congress' constitutional control of the nation's purse strings would spark certain legal challenges and bipartisan cries of executive overreach.

A congressional official said the White House has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to look for billions of dollars earmarked last year for disaster response for Puerto Rico and other areas that could be diverted to a border wall as part of the emergency declaration. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly.

"We're either going to have a win, make a compromise — because I think a compromise is a win for everybody — or I will declare a national emergency," Trump said before departing the White House for his politically flavored visit to the border. He wore his campaign-slogan "Make America Great Again" cap throughout.

It was not clear what a compromise might entail, and there were no indications that one was in the offing. Trump says he won't reopen the government without money for the wall. Democrats say they favor measures to bolster border security but oppose the long, impregnable barrier that Trump envisions.

No negotiations were taking place at the Capitol.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said at one point that he didn't "see a path in Congress" to end the shutdown, then stated later that enough was enough: "It is time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction of a border wall/barrier."

Visiting a border patrol station in McAllen, Trump viewed tables piled with weapons and narcotics. Like nearly all drugs trafficked across the border, they were intercepted by agents at official ports of entry, he was told, and not in the remote areas where he wants to extend tall barriers.

Still, he declared: "A wall works. ... Nothing like a wall."

He argued that the U.S. can't solve the problem without a "very substantial barrier" along the border, but offered exaggerations about the effectiveness of border walls and current apprehensions of those crossing illegally.

Sitting among border patrol officers, state and local officials and military representatives, Trump insisted he was "winning" the shutdown fight and criticized Democrats for asserting he was manufacturing a sense of crisis in order to declare an emergency. "What is manufactured is the use of the word 'manufactured,'" Trump said.

As he arrived in Texas, several hundred protesters near the airport in McAllen chanted and waved signs opposing a wall. Across the street, a smaller group chanted back: "Build that wall!"

In Washington, federal workers denounced Trump at a rally with congressional Democrats, demanding he reopen the government so they can get back to work.

On Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the president of engaging in political games to fire up his most loyal supporters, suggesting that a heated meeting Wednesday with legislators at the White House had been "a setup" so that Trump could walk out of it.

In an ominous sign for those seeking a swift end to the showdown, Trump announced he was canceling his trip to Davos, Switzerland, scheduled for later this month, citing Democrats' "intransigence" on border security. He was to leave Jan. 21 to attend the World Economic Forum.

The partial shutdown would set a record early Saturday, stretching beyond the 21-day closure that ended on Jan 6, 1996, during President Bill Clinton's administration.

Read Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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Comments

  • KCSAP
    January 10, 2019 at 9:39 a.m.

    The wall is coming.

  • RBear
    January 10, 2019 at 9:42 a.m.

    So, if Trump declares a national emergency this will definitely signal the end of his bid for 2020. It will be an easy target for Democrats who will have the backing of the majority of the country who opposes the wall and will see this as an end-around of Congress for no real reason. Sounds good to me if he's that stupid to pull it.
    ...
    Remember, HE has not negotiated. He told Pelosi she must approve his wall funding to reopen the government. That's a one-sided deal and that's how it will be portrayed.

  • Packman
    January 10, 2019 at 9:44 a.m.

    As my granddaddy would say, it's time to sh*t or get off the pot.
    .
    President Trump needs to either declare a national emergency and fund the wall or cave to Democrats. The pros and cons of the wall have been debated to death and at this point neither side will be persuaded. For example, I'll never persuade PopSnob a physical barrier on our southern border is a vital part of border security and well worth the money and she'll never convince me a wall is mostly ineffective not worth the money. That President Trump or the Democrats are using the issue for political purpose is irrelevant to the ultimate question of border security.
    .
    Do we need more physical barriers along our southern border and if so do the costs sustain the benefits? It's not a complicated question. If President Trump truly believes the answer to be yes, he needs to make the call and use his emergency powers to fund the wall.

  • limb
    January 10, 2019 at 9:50 a.m.

    Trump doesn’t care about a wall. It’s to get his supporters support. It’s a comical yet useful issue for him. He had two years of complete control and no one in GOP controlled house or Congress wanted it to happen.
    The invisible wall will be enhanced. Then you can say there is wall!

  • hah406
    January 10, 2019 at 10:14 a.m.

    And the baby boy's tantrum continues. He can't stand the idea of not getting a "win." I can tell you, he won't win in the courts if he tries this national emergency gig. He is about to lose big with the Mueller investigation, even if it doesn't get him personally. And why should this spoiled brat who has never had anyone tell him "no" expect to win with congress now if he couldn't do it with two full years of GOP total control?

  • seitan
    January 10, 2019 at 10:31 a.m.

    This Presidental Ego is out of control.

  • GeneralMac
    January 10, 2019 at 10:34 a.m.

    Build it using our Navy Seabees and Army construction people.

    They need the training anyways.

  • RBear
    January 10, 2019 at 11:02 a.m.

    Pack while we may disagree on the points, that’s the most rational comment I’ve seen you make on this issue and a lot of truth in why we have the stalemate. I hate that this has become so polarizing, but it has.

  • KCSAP
    January 10, 2019 at 11:41 a.m.

    To all you wall deniers; you are on the losing side of history and a majority of Americans that understand the illegal immigration problem. Quoting the liberal biased Politico , 79% of Americans in politico poll know there is a crisis or problem at the southern border. The wall is coming!

  • RBear
    January 10, 2019 at 12:03 p.m.

    KCSAP cherry picks the poll number. 79% say there is a crisis at the border, but only 44% support a border wall. Hmmm. Sounds like they see other options to address the problem. 65% also say that Trump should not have shut the government down.
    ...
    That doesn't look like the losing side of history. Comments like this are what you get when you let underachievers try to read polling numbers.

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