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Government shutdown: Trump tours border, claims Democrats 'losing the argument'

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President Donald Trump, center, with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, center left, speaks during his visit to US Border Patrol McAllen Station in McAllen, Texas, on Jan. 10, 2019. Trump travels to the US-Mexico border as part of his all-out offensive to build a wall. At the event, the props in the center of the room, include an AR-15 rifle, colt handguns, a plastic bag full of cash, and black-taped bricks of heroin and meth, examples of things Border Patrol agents have seized. Jim Watson, AFP/Getty Images

  • President Donald Trump stands with Border Patrol agents at the Rio Grande after his visit to US Border Patrol McAllen Station in McAllen, Texas, on Jan. 10, 2019. Trump traveled to the US-Mexico border as part of his all-out offensive to build a wall, a day after he stormed out of negotiations when Democratic opponents refused to agree to fund the project in exchange for an end to a painful government shutdown.1 of 16
  • President Donald Trump greets a policeman with Border Patrol agents,and military after his visit to US Border Patrol McAllen Station in McAllen, Texas, on Jan. 10, 2019.2 of 16
  • President Donald Trump, center, with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, center left, speaks during his visit to US Border Patrol McAllen Station in McAllen, Texas, on Jan. 10, 2019. Trump travels to the US-Mexico border as part of his all-out offensive to build a wall. At the event, the props in the center of the room, include an AR-15 rifle, colt handguns, a plastic bag full of cash, and black-taped bricks of heroin and meth, examples of things Border Patrol agents have seized. 3 of 16
  • President Donald Trump speaks at a roundtable on immigration and border security at U.S. Border Patrol McAllen Station, during a visit to the southern border, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in McAllen, Texas.4 of 16
  • The motorcade of President Donald Trump, making a visit to the southern border, passes groups opposed to border walls being built along the Texas-Mexico border, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in McAllen, Texas. 5 of 16
  • Groups opposed to border walls being built along the Texas-Mexico border gather outside the McAllen International Airport as they wait for the arrival of President Donald Trump who is making a visit to the southern border, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in McAllen, Texas. 6 of 16
  • Supporters of President Donald Trump gather outside the McAllen International Airport for Trump's visit to the southern border, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in McAllen, Texas. 7 of 16
  • President Donald Trump visits US Border Patrol McAllen Station in McAllen, Texas, on Jan. 10, 2019, with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, right. Trump travels to the US-Mexico border as part of his all-out offensive to build a wall, a day after he stormed out of negotiations when Democratic opponents refused to agree to fund the project in exchange for an end to a painful government shutdown. 8 of 16
  • Sen. Ted Cruse R-TX, arrive in McAllen Tx. with President Donald Trump to discus security along the U.S southern border on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019.9 of 16
  • President Donald Trump arrives in McAllen, Tx to speak to offices and tour the U.S southern border on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. The trip comes two days after President Trump delivered a nation wide address setting there is a crises along the border and calling for a wall or barrier. 10 of 16
  • A man crosses the Reynosa-Hidalgo international bridge linking the Mexican city of Reynosa, in the state of Tamaulipas with US city of Hidalgo, in Texas, on Jan. 10, 2019.11 of 16
  • Eddie Zamora, 56, of McAllen, said he supports Trump's plan to build a border wall through his community. I guarantee everybody out here locks their doors at night, he said. 12 of 16
  • Marine One helicopter, with President Donald Trump aboard, flies off the South Lawn of the White House, Thursday Jan. 10, 2019, in Washington, en route for a trip to the border in Texas as the government shutdown continues. 13 of 16
  • Activist against President Trump's border wall make signs in San Juan, Texas, on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, a day before President Trump's visit to Mcallen. 14 of 16
  • A Customs and Border Protection tower over looks the Rio Grande at the Riverside Club in Mission, Texas. 15 of 16
  • A border fence in Hidalgo, Texas near the McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge. 16 of 16

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump blasted Democrats and touted his proposed border wall during a visit to Texas on Thursday hours after making his most explicit threat yet to declare a national emergency and sidestep Congress on the issue. 

“If we had a barrier of any kind, a powerful barrier, whether its steel or concrete, we would stop it cold,” Trump said of the drugs, crime and human trafficking he has said are pouring into the United States in what the White House increasingly frames as a “crisis.”

Congressional Democrats have rejected Trump’s request for $5.7 billion for wall funding, arguing that the physical barrier would not be effective and that the president is manufacturing a crisis to appease his base. The impasse has led to the second-longest government shutdown in U.S. history, now in its 20th day.

Trump’s visit to McAllen, Texas, came hours after he laid out in his most explicit language yet a threat to bypass Democrats and declare a national emergency to free up additional funding for the border wall. The Pentagon is preparing options to build barriers along the border if that happens, USA TODAY reported.

“If this doesn’t work out, probably I will do it – I would almost say definitely,” Trump said leaving the White House. “We have plenty of funds if there’s a national emergency.”

In Texas, Trump was briefed by border officials and flanked by families who said their loved ones were killed by immigrants who entered the country illegally.  

“They say it’s immoral,” Trump said of Democratic opposition to his proposed wall. “What’s immoral is all the killing that’s taking place.”

The president has repeatedly highlighted MS-13 gang violence to suggest that illegal immigration leads to higher crime, but studies generally find immigrants are less likely overall to commit a crime.

Trump later arrived on the banks of the Rio Grande after his motorcade weaved through an industrial area of warehouses and crossed a levee where the wall is proposed to be built. 

“This is common sense,” Trump said. “They need a barrier.”

Trump said – without evidence – there would be “a lot of death” on the border if the wall is not built.

Hanging over the visit were questions about whether Trump would declare a national emergency in coming days, a move that would allow him to redirect defense money for a wall but would almost certainly trigger court challenges. An emergency declaration could give Trump an off ramp to reopen the government but continue to fight for the wall.   

Trump, wearing a white “Make America Great Again” campaign hat, barely mentioned the possibility of an emergency declaration while in Texas. 

The Texas trip came a day after the president stormed out of a White House meeting with Democratic leaders negotiating an end to the partial government shutdown. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers face missing a paycheck Friday. Many of those employees belong to the Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for securing the border.  

During the roundtable law enforcement officials briefed Trump on the ways they are blocking illegal immigration. Officials showed him images of vehicles apprehended at checkpoints smuggling humans and drugs into the country. Another image showed a truck that was floated across the Rio Grande with drugs. 

Despite government data showing that most illegal drugs intercepted at the border come through legal ports of entry, Trump lamented that “the people that are coming in – the criminals, the gangs, the traffickers, the drugs – it’s all crime.”

Even though he repeatedly promised during the 2016 campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall, Trump sought to row back on that, insisting he did not say Mexico would “write a check.” Throughout the day,Trump said Mexico would pay “indirectly,” a reference to the pending trade deal that would bring in new revenue only from U.S. consumers, if it brought in new revenue at all, according to trade experts.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Trump of abruptly leaving a meeting at the White House on Wednesday while administration officials blamed Democrats for negotiating in bad faith. In Washington, Pelosi told reporters that Trump prefers a “soap opera” instead of serious negotiations over border security and ending the shutdown.

“I don’t even know if the president wants the wall,” the California Democrat said. “I think he just wants the debate on the wall.”

Democrats initially proposed $1.6 billion for border security, but none of that money could be used for the kind of wall Trump says he wants. 

The effects of the shutdown will only grow with time, even as the White House scrambles to limit the impact. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported a slowdown in food safety inspections, airports cited longer lines at security checkpoints, and national parks have been operating for weeks with limited services.

Perhaps a more pressing problem for Trump: Some Republicans have noted the impact on federal employees and a handful of Senate Republicans – including Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – have said they would at least consider a plan to reopen some agencies.

Shortly before Trump boarded Air Force One for his return trip to Washington the House voted on a measure to reopen the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development without additional money for the wall.

Though the measure is unlikely to make it to a Senate vote, a dozen Republicans voted with Democrats on the bill – four more than crossed party lines on a similar bill a day ago.

Contributing: Eliza Collins

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., center, speaks about her oath of office as she stands next to Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., left, and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., right, following their meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. Susan Walsh, APVice President Mike Pence, left, White House legislative affairs aide Ja’Ron Smith, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, second row left, White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, and others, walk down the steps of the Eisenhower Executive Office building, on the White House complex, after a meeting with staff members of House and Senate leadership, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, in Washington. Alex Brandon, APPresident Donald J. Trump holds a news conference beside US Vice President Mike Pence, left,, Republican Representative from Louisiana Steve Scalise (2-R) and House Minority Leader Republican Kevin McCarthy, right, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on Jan. 4, 2019. President Trump discussed a variety of topics, particularly his meeting with Congressional Democratic and Republican leaders for negotiations on the ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government. A partial shutdown of the government continues since Congress and Trump failed to strike a deal on border security before a 22 December 22, 2018 funding deadline. Michael Reynolds, EPA-EFESenate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is met by reporters as he arrives at the Capitol on the first morning of a partial government shutdown, as Democratic lawmakers, and some Republicans, are at odds with President Donald Trump on spending for his border wall, in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018. J. Scott Applewhite, AP

  • An empty entrance line is seen as signs hang on the doors of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture indicating that the museum is closed because of the partial government shutdown in Washington, DC, Jan. 9, 2019. A cornered President Donald Trump will hold talks with congressional leaders Wednesday over his demand for a US-Mexico border wall, with his options running out for ending a prolonged partial government shutdown over the impasse. Trump gave a nine-minute prime-time address Tuesday night to make the case for his signature domestic policy idea, but made no concessions to opposition Democrats, who have rejected funding for the project. 1 of 44
  • Members of the US Secret Service Uniformed Division patrol outside of the White House in Washington, DC, Jan. 9, 2019, on the 18th day of the partial government shutdown.2 of 44
  • U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is chased by members of the media after he returned to the U.S. Capitol from a meeting at the White House Jan. 9, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump walked out of a meeting with congressional leaders at the White House negotiating border security funding and government shutdown, calling it a total waste of time. 3 of 44
  • Passengers wait in a Transportation Security Administration line at JFK airport on Jan. 09, 2019 in New York City. Its been reported that hundreds of TSA screeners and agents have called in sick from their shifts from a number of major airports as the partial government shutdown continues. Employees of the TSA, whose job it is to keep airlines safe, are being forced to work without knowing when their next paycheck is coming.4 of 44
  • U.S. Senate Minoirty Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) returns to the U.S. Capitol from a meeting at the White House January 9, 2019 in Washington, DC. 5 of 44
  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., left, listens as Vice President Mike Pence, right, speaks to reporters following a meeting with President Donald Trump and Democratic congressional leaders at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. 6 of 44
  • House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., holds his notes as he talks with reporters following a meeting with Congressional leaders and President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019.7 of 44
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., center, speaks about her oath of office as she stands next to Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., left, and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., right, following their meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. 8 of 44
  • President Donald Trump, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., talks to the media after a Senate Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2018, in Washington.9 of 44
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., listens as President Donald Trump talks to the media after a Senate Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2018, in Washington.10 of 44
  • A Closed sign is seen during a news conference after a House Democratic Caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 9, 2019 in Washington, DC. House Democrats gathered to discuss the Democratic agenda as the partial government shutdown enters day 19.  11 of 44
  • Activists hold a lit FAKE CRISIS sign as they stage a protest outside the White House in response to U.S. President Donald Trumps prime time address to the nation Jan. 8, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump urged Congress to fund $5.7 billion for a border wall.12 of 44
  • The Washington skyline is seen on day 19 of a partial government shutdown on the morning after President Donald Trump used a prime-time TV address from the Oval Office to urge congressional Democrats to relent on their opposition to his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. From left are the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the U.S. Capitol.13 of 44
  • The entrance to Fort Point National Historic Site, a masonry seacoast fortification located on the southern side of the Golden Gate Bride, a popular tourist site is closed in San Francisco, Calif. on Jan. 8, 2019. 14 of 44
  • Members of American Legion Post 416 watch President Donald Trump speak on Jan. 8, 2019 in Encinitas, California.  The president spoke in his first prime-time address from the Oval Office in an effort to build support for $5.7 billion in funding for a border wall.  15 of 44
  • People walk past a sign announcing that New York funds are keeping the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island open for visitors on Jan. 5, 2019, in New York, as the US government shutdown enters its third week. 16 of 44
  • Vice President Mike Pence, left, White House legislative affairs aide Ja'Ron Smith, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, second row left, White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, and others, walk down the steps of the Eisenhower Executive Office building, on the White House complex, after a meeting with staff members of House and Senate leadership, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, in Washington.17 of 44
  • The Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum is closed during the partial government shutdown, Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 in Washington.18 of 44
  • Workmen from the commercial cleanup company 1-800-GOT-JUNK clean up trash on The Ellipse, south of the White House, in Washington, DC on Jan. 4, 2019. As the company donates its resources to clean up, US President Donald J. Trump is scheduled to meet at the White House with congressional leadership in hopes of ending the partial government shutdown now in its 12th day.  19 of 44
  • Emma James, right, and co-worker Vincent Cuenca demonstrate outside the Federal Center on Goodfellow Boulevard, Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 in St. Louis.  James is a processor in the multifamily housing division. Cuenta processes payments to FEMA contractors. 20 of 44
  • President Donald J. Trump holds a news conference beside US Vice President Mike Pence, left,, Republican Representative from Louisiana Steve Scalise (2-R) and House Minority Leader Republican Kevin McCarthy, right, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on Jan. 4, 2019. President Trump discussed a variety of topics, particularly his meeting with Congressional Democratic and Republican leaders for negotiations on the ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government. A partial shutdown of the government continues since Congress and Trump failed to strike a deal on border security before a 22 December 22, 2018 funding deadline. 21 of 44
  • Volunteer Alexandra Degen cleans a restroom at Joshua Tree National Park on Jan. 4, 2019 in Joshua Tree National Park, California. Volunteers with 'Friends of Joshua Tree National Park' have been cleaning bathrooms and trash at the park as the park is drastically understaffed during the partial government shutdown. Campgrounds and some roads have been closed at the park due to safety concerns. 22 of 44
  • Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi returns to the US Capitol after a meeting with US President Donald Trump over the ongoing partial government shutdown in Washington, DC on Jan. 4, 2019. Though Democrats called the meeting 'contentious,' President Trump said the meeting was 'productive'. 23 of 44
  • Signs announce the visitor center at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri Valley, Iowa, is closed, Friday, Jan. 4, 2019, as the partial government shutdown continues. 24 of 44
  • Brandon Torres, center, the Branch Chief of Emergency Services at Grand Canyon National Park, directs guests in the park on Jan. 4, 2019. 25 of 44
  • A sign blocks a snowed in walk way at Grand Canyon National Park on Jan. 4, 2019. The park was staffed at minimum capacity due to the government shutdown but retained much of its services due to an executive order issued by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to run the park with state funds in the event of a shutdown.26 of 44
  • The Capitol building is visible as a man throws garbage away during a partial government shutdown on the National Mall in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2018. Trash cans on the Mall are not being emptied during the shutdown.27 of 44
  • A sign is posted on a fence near an entrance to the Bunker Hill Monument, Monday, Dec. 24, 2018, in Boston. The historic site, erected to commemorate the Revolutionary War Battle of Bunker Hill, and run by the National Park Service, was closed Monday due to a partial federal government shutdown. The federal government is expected to remain partially closed past Christmas Day in a protracted standoff over President Donald Trump's demand for money to build a border wall with Mexico.28 of 44
  • The empty U.S. Capitol Rotunda is seen in Washington during a partial government shutdown Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. Both sides in the long-running fight over funding President Donald Trump's U.S.-Mexico border wall appear to have moved toward each other, but a shutdown of one-fourth of the federal government entered Christmas without a clear resolution in sight. 29 of 44
  • Senate Majority Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, center, is surrounded by reporters after leaving the Senate chamber at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on Dec. 22, 2018. 30 of 44
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is met by reporters as he arrives at the Capitol on the first morning of a partial government shutdown, as Democratic lawmakers, and some Republicans, are at odds with President Donald Trump on spending for his border wall, in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018. 31 of 44
  • Jamie Parrish, from Minneapolis, takes a selfie in front of the closed sign at the National Archives, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018 in Washington. The House and Senate are gaveling back in for a rare weekend session amid a partial government shutdown over President Donald Trump's demand for billions of dollars for a border wall. 32 of 44
  • A sign alerts visitors to the closure of the White House Visitor Center on the first day of a partial government shutdown in Washington, DC on Dec. 22, 2018. 33 of 44
  • The US Capitol on the first morning of a partial government shutdown in Washington, DC on Dec. 22, 2018. Earlier in the week, President Trump rejected a Senate-passed continuing resolution to fund the federal government because it did not include money for his border wall. Though President Trump said he was 'proud' to shut the government down, lawmakers will meet again today to negotiate a way around the stalemate.34 of 44
  • Senate Majority Leader Republican Mitch McConnell, center, is followed by members of the news media as he walks from the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on Dec. 21, 2018. President Trump rejected a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through Feb. 8, 2019, threatening a partial shutdown unless funding is included for his border wall.35 of 44
  • Vice President Mike Pence, right, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, center, and Senior Advisor to US President Donald J. Trump, Jared Kushner, left, walk from the House of Representatives to the Senate at the US Capitol on Friday.36 of 44
  • Outgoing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) (C) returns to his office after votes in the U.S. Capitol, Friday. The U.S. Senate considered a budget bill passed Thursday by the House of Representatives that would fund the federal government and includes more than $500 million for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Senate is unlikely to pass the bill with the wall funding, moving the government closer to a partial shut down just days before the Christmas holiday.37 of 44
  • House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, the speaker-designate for the new Congress, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., leave after talking to reporters as a revised spending bill is introduced in the House that includes $5 billion demanded by President Donald Trump for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, as Congress tries to avert a partial shutdown, in Washington, on Dec. 20, 2018.38 of 44
  • Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (R) and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (C) speak to the media, Thursday, as lawmakers prepare to vote on a new budget resolution to avert a government shutdown.39 of 44
  • Republican Majority Whip from California Kevin McCarthy (C) leaves the Capitol, Thursday, for the White House to negotiate a budget vote to avert a government shutdown in the US Capitol. The Senate passed a continuing resolution on Wednesday, to keep the government open until February 2019. Others are not identified members of the media.40 of 44
  • Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations Republican Richard Shelby (C) speaks to members of the news media shortly before leaving to attend a meeting at the White House held by US President Donald J. Trump, on Capitol Hill, Friday. President Trump rejected a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through 08 February 2019, threatening a partial shutdown unless funding is included for his border wall.41 of 44
  • Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) makes a statement to the press after a meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House Thursday.42 of 44
  • House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., center, accompanied by House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., center right, speaks to reporters outside the West Wing of the White House following a meeting with President Donald Trump on border security.43 of 44
  • Senate Majority Leader Republican Mitch McConnell arrives at the Senate Carriage entrance upon returning from the White House where he attended a meeting held by President Donald J. Trump, on Friday. President Trump rejected a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through February 8, 2019, threatening a partial shutdown unless funding is included for his border wall.44 of 44

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