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story.lead_photo.caption President Donald Trump (right) salutes a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter Thursday as it flies over the Rio Grande during Trump’s visit to the border town of McAllen, Texas. Trump met with Border Patrol officers and heard stories of violent deaths at the hands of people in the country illegally.

McALLEN, Texas -- President Donald Trump arrived in a border town Thursday to discuss a crisis that Democrats say does not exist, repeating his request for a long-promised border wall that has led to a bitter political impasse and a 20-day government shutdown.

Flanked by Border Patrol officers, as well as Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of homeland security, and a cache of drugs, cash and weapons seized by authorities at the border, Trump again blamed the protracted shutdown affecting vast areas of the federal government on Democrats. He reiterated his claim that Mexico would indirectly pay for the wall through a revamped trade agreement, and heard from people whose loved ones had been killed by immigrants.

"If we had a barrier of any kind, whether it's steel or concrete," Trump said after hearing stories involving violence and human trafficking, "they wouldn't even bother trying. We could stop that cold."

[RELATED: Boozman, Cotton back Internet system to verify workers]

But as the government shutdown neared the end of its third week, the president left Washington with no additional negotiations scheduled with congressional leaders over a possible compromise that could both provide border security and open the government. In remarks to reporters Thursday, Trump did not rule out declaring a state of national emergency that could allow him to bypass Congress to fund the wall.

Asked if he would make such a declaration, an action that would likely face legal challenges, Trump said: "If this doesn't work out, probably I will do it. I would almost say definitely."

The president maintains he has the option of declaring a national emergency to fund construction for the wall, perhaps the central promise that he made during his campaign, and bypassing a legislative solution. The head of the Army Corps of Engineers traveled with Trump to Texas on Thursday. Redirecting funds from the Army's construction agency to build the wall is one option Trump could use in a national emergency.

Trump said he had the legal authority to make the declaration. "This is a thing that the lawyers tell me is 100 percent," Trump said.

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.

In the meeting with Border Patrol officials, Trump did not emphasize the need for an emergency, but invited locals to help him make his case.

A local pastor declared the problem a "humanitarian crisis." Border Patrol officers used visual aids showing stash houses, road checkpoints and drug caches to emphasize the demand for border security and a wall. And at one point, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who waged a hard-fought political battle with the president as an opponent during the 2016 primaries, praised Trump for "infusing more backbone" in the capital.

Trump repeated his demand for the money from Congress while telling the group that Mexico would somehow provide funds indirectly for the wall.

"I didn't say they're going to write me a check for $10 billion or $20 billion," Trump said Thursday. "If Congress approves this trade bill, they'll pay for the wall many times over. When I say Mexico's going to pay for the wall, that's what I mean."

In Texas, Trump listened to tearful stories from people who described violent deaths of siblings and sons, including one woman whose son, a Border Patrol agent, had been killed by someone in the country illegally.

"Thank you," Trump said as he walked over to hug her. "I'm very proud of you right now."

Also Thursday, 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.

SPENDING BILLS

While Trump was in Texas, Democrats sought unsuccessfully Thursday to pass bills to reopen shuttered government agencies. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., rebuffed efforts to pass spending bills that would reopen shuttered government agencies, including several that had nothing to do with border security.

After Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., sought consent to move forward with a bill, McConnell objected, calling the Democratic strategy "pointless, absolutely pointless."

"This will not produce a result," McConnell said. "It won't solve the problem because the president has made clear he won't sign them."

Speaking on the floor, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., unsuccessfully pleaded with McConnell to take up the legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell heads to his office Thursday on Capitol Hill for a meeting with Senate Republicans. McConnell again refused to consider bills to reopen the government, calling the strategy “pointless, absolutely pointless.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell heads to his office Thursday on Capitol Hill for a meeting with Senate Republicans. McConnell again refused to consider bills to reopen the government, calling the strategy “pointless, absolutely pointless.”

"Let's separate our disagreements over border security from the government shutdown, reopen all the government agencies unrelated to border security, and let's continue to work to resolve our differences," Schumer said. "Do not hold all of these workers as hostages, as pawns, as leverage."

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., warned his Republican colleagues of the consequences of not acting by today.

"I will tell you your phones will all be ringing off the hook tomorrow when federal employees miss that first paycheck," Van Hollen said. Some 800,000 workers, more than half of them still on the job, were to miss their first paycheck today under the stoppage, and Washington was close to setting a dubious record for the longest government shutdown in the nation's history.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that she thinks Trump "loves the distraction" that the partial government shutdown has created.

Pelosi also questioned whether Trump is truly confident that a border wall makes sense.

"If you have confidence in your own position, why do you say, 'I have to shut down government to get people to heed what I'm saying?'"

"I don't even know if the president wants the wall. I think he just wants the debate on the wall," she added.

By midafternoon, Vice President Mike Pence, who was on Capitol Hill to meet with Republican senators, ruled out any agreement that involved protections for "dreamers" brought to the country illegally as children.

"When we get the resources that we need to build a wall and secure our border, this is a president that also wants to ... fix our broken immigration system. We believe the opportunity after the Supreme Court case will be the time to do that," Pence said, referring to the high court's expected ruling on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Deal-minded Senate Republicans had been shuttling between meetings with McConnell and Pence on Thursday morning. They batted around a proposal that would include Trump's desired $5.7 billion in wall funding; a renewable, three-year status for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipients and beneficiaries of the Temporary Protected Status program; and other matters, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions.

"I think there is some good discussion going on, and we're looking for options and alternatives, and that's an important part of the process right now," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

Protesters were in the streets of McAllen (left) as Trump visited, while back in Washington, lawmakers sought an agreement to end the government shutdown.
Protesters were in the streets of McAllen (left) as Trump visited, while back in Washington, lawmakers sought an agreement to end the government shutdown.

But the GOP senators were much more interested in hashing out a process agreement that could pave the way forward for a potential deal to end the shutdown, the people said. That would include holding congressional hearings on immigration -- most likely in the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Under the process idea, the Senate would put forward the president's immigration funding request for a committee and ultimately a floor vote, with the understanding that Trump's plan would be subject to amendments.

Graham said late Thursday afternoon that talks were over and that he saw "no way forward."

"I have never been more depressed about moving forward than right now. I just don't see a pathway forward," he said.

Also Thursday, Trump disputed accounts of his brief and contentious negotiation with Democrats and Republican leaders Wednesday in the Situation Room that ended abruptly when he walked out of the room after Pelosi rebuffed his overture to reopen the government in exchange for wall funding.

Supporters of President Donald Trump wait for his arrival Thursday at McAllen International Airport in southern Texas.
Supporters of President Donald Trump wait for his arrival Thursday at McAllen International Airport in southern Texas.

Before his departure, Trump denied Democrats' reports that he slammed his hand on the table and had what Schumer called "a temper tantrum."

"I didn't smash the table," Trump said Thursday morning before leaving for Texas. "I should have."

Trump also tweeted "[Schumer] told his favorite lie when he used his standard sound bite that I 'slammed the table & walked out of the room. He had a temper tantrum. I politely said bye-bye and left, no slamming!"

Those who have done business with Trump in the past said walking out of the meeting was one of his trademark negotiating tactics. He is also known to have walked out of a judge's chambers during divorce proceedings.

Information for this article was contributed by Michael Tackett, Katie Rogers, Terrence Dopp, John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez of The Washington Post; by Catherine Lucey, Lisa Mascaro, Zeke Miller, Jill Colvin, Colleen Long, Alan Fram, Deb Riechmann and Nomaan Merchant of The Associated Press; and by Michael Tackett and Katie Rogers of The New York Times.

A Section on 01/11/2019

Print Headline: Trump visits Texas border, insists building wall only solution

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  • RBear
    January 11, 2019 at 6:20 a.m.

    At the border visit, "He reiterated his claim that Mexico would indirectly pay for the wall through a revamped trade agreement." If that were the case, why is this even an issue? He says he has the money through NAFTA 2.0, but I have YET to see anyone come up with a rational explanation of how that works. All I've seen from anyone has been Pack's convoluted attempt that shows he wasn't a good business student in college.
    ...
    With regards to the shutdown, this has become unnecessary. Trump can't make a compelling case and has resorted to constant lies about the conditions. Putting a bunch of seized drugs as a prop shows how out of touch he is with the situation. DEA and CBP have already stated the vast majority of those come through legal points of entry. I'm sure they had to go to a border checkpoint to find the props for his photo op. If Trump would sign the DHS bill that includes not only funds to repair/replace existing portions of the wall but improved technology to detect drugs and weapons, more drugs could be seized at the checkpoints. But a wall does nothing to improve that.
    ...
    Of all the ones on the Hill who have been MIA, the most prominent is McConnell who is biding his time refusing to take up any legislation in the Senate. Usually when he does this, it's evidence he doesn't support the approach and is passing the buck to the president. McConnell doesn't like to get in political fights and he's showing that in this situation.
    ...
    Today, federal employees got their pay stubs with 0.00 in the field for gross income earned. Almost half showed up for work even though they didn't get paid. The other half are ready to go to work. A small portion of those are involved in the wall dispute. It's time to pass at least those bills not involved with wall funding. If Trump is so confident of his case, at least he could pass those bills to keep the government running and these employees paid. Personally, I found his statement saying, "I can relate," HIGHLY OFFENSIVE. That's just another BS line from the liar in chief.
    ...
    Now, we find DoD is looking at taking money from disaster funds to fund the construction of the wall. That shows how distorted Trump's priorities are. If he's so confident this is an issue of national security, the funds should come from other programs such as wasteful funding for fighter jets. But, of course we won't see that since it would impact defense contractors who pad the pockets of him and Republican congressmen.

  • Knuckleball1
    January 11, 2019 at 7:13 a.m.

    Another Day and the IDIOT (A Rich Spoiled IDIOT and BULLY)is holding back pay checks for Federal Workers till he gets his wall that will never work. Shame on Him and the So called Congress wimps and Senators from Arkansas from not doing anything but as normal setting on their fat butts getting paid for doing nothing.

    ........................

    The Trumpster needs to look back into HISTORY (if he can read, we know he doen't comprehend).
    ...................

    The French thought the Maginot line would stop the Germans from taking France when it was built in the late 1920s, but Hitler went around the wall and outflanked the French.
    ....................................

    Hitler’s Fortified Siegfried Line took the Allies 6 months and many casualties to conquer but the Allies prevailed.
    ............................................

    The Newest Wall that most of the Trolls might remember is,
    The Russian Wall between East and West Berlin, did not totally stop people from getting from the East to the West if they wanted to get to West Berlin. Records show that about 100 people were shot trying to cross the wall but Thousands went over or under the wall to the safety of the West.
    ....................................

    There are no records that show walls worked after the invention of the Canon in 1453. So for the so called Toddler in the White House says walls work, again he is lost in his own mind, History does not prove him to be right once again.
    ............

    Bottom Line, if someone wants to cross the Southern Border bad enough with a little planning they are still going to be able to cross. Money needs to be spent on new Technology not an obsolete wall that was proven 100s of years ago and again in the 1960s that they don't work.
    ....................................

    The other thought maybe since the Trumpster is really a Russian pretending to be a US Citizen and takes his orders from Putin, just maybe the So Called President wants a wall just like Nikita Khrushchev's Berlin Wall..!!!!!!!

  • RBear
    January 11, 2019 at 7:34 a.m.

    ROTFL. So I decided to do a little more research on what it would take to build much of this wall that Trump is adamant about. It turns out this would be one of our biggest building fiascos of the century and the upkeep of it would far outpace any benefits from it. For example, take the construction of the "wall" in sandy areas. Those require entirely different designs than Trump's "prototypes" in San Diego. Since bedrock is so deep, they can only be built to "float" with the sand and aren't really barriers. They have to be able to move as the dunes shift, a logistical nightmare.
    ...
    Then, there's that barrier that runs into the Pacific Ocean. That erodes so much due to the effects of waves and sea water that it requires constant upkeep to repair the deterioration. In Texas, there are over 1,300 kinds of soil alone that would require different designs to have some sustainability. The options there require either rebuilding the area where the fence would go (you can imagine what that would cost) or avoid the area entirely.
    ...
    Most barriers today are actually fences, including the one between Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The Finnish border is actually a fence to keep reindeer on one side. Most other barriers were feeble attempts to contain one area or another and many have gone by the wayside. At the current border cities, there are barriers but the are augmented by law enforcement which has driven crime down in the cities. The barriers do very little. In other words, this is all a war of words and very little action.
    ...
    But try telling ANY of this to the Trump demographic and see where it goes. You get some of the dumbest responses you've ever seen. Trump feeds that stupidity with false claims that they twist and contort to attempt to defend, even though the facts are against them.

  • RobertBolt
    January 11, 2019 at 8:28 a.m.

    So the President is saluting helicopters now as he offers yet another expression of the military sophistication one would expect from Cadet Bone Spurs in the midst of his world-wide retreat. Heil, Helicopter!

  • skeptic1
    January 11, 2019 at 8:52 a.m.

    Rbear and Knuckleball1...filling up half the page with your blather doesn't make you any more relevant. The majority of the country is behind Trump's push for border security, this is a loser for Nancy and Chuck who looked ridiculous on their canned rebuttal to Trump's speech. Border security officers, governors, ICE, and DHS all cite their hard and verifiable statistics regarding human trafficking etc. that results from open areas on the border. The best example of the idiocy of the left is Jim Acosta at a fence on the border saying there is no crisis because no one is rushing the fence. Does he have a producer with a brain, gee, ya think maybe illegals might go where there is no fence to cross? The Dems all voted for a wall under Obama, they only oppose it now because of their pathological hatred for Trump.

  • RobertBolt
    January 11, 2019 at 9:04 a.m.

    Anyone who persistently engages in extended debates with people they decry as idiots are themselves bigger idiots.

  • RBear
    January 11, 2019 at 9:05 a.m.

    skeptic actually we fill up the page with facts I ask you to dispute in detail. As it stands, we get lies from you such as "The majority of the country is behind Trump's push for border security." Actually, the majority of the country is for border security, but against Trump's wall. So get your facts straight FIRST and then we can have a discussion. (Crickets)
    ...
    With regards to human trafficking, while it exists it's not at a "crisis" level. Should it end? Yes, but no wall will stop that. It hasn't in areas where the wall currently exists. It's another pinata to swing at in this discussion.

  • skeptic1
    January 11, 2019 at 9:24 a.m.

    Rbear....bla, bla, bla, bla, bla, bla, bla....

  • RBear
    January 11, 2019 at 9:41 a.m.

    skeptic like I said, you've got nothing and proved that out in your weak response. You gripe about media and everyone else not providing "facts," but you can't produce anything of value yourself. Tell you what. Since you referenced ICE and DHS stats on human trafficking, why not produce them here in detail so you can make a stronger case. Ready. Set. GO!

  • RobertBolt
    January 11, 2019 at 9:51 a.m.

    For example, one may properly consider somebody an idiot if somebody's argument literally consists of "blah, blah, blah," but persistently to engage such people can reasonably be interpreted as the desire to demonstrate publicly the ability to bully a lesser mind, intellectual sadism and/or masochism, or a lack of self-control when confronted with mindless provocation. If a particular demographic can predictably compel a response from someone who may wish to be seen as a superior intellect, who outwits whom? Who really wins these exhibitionistic displays?

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