Jan 10, 2019, 7:59 PM ET

Trump directs Army Corps of Engineers to find money to help fund border wall: Sources

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The White House has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to find money is its own budget that could be used to fund the president’s desired border wall under a national emergency declaration, multiple sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

The White House has specifically asked the Army Corps of Engineers to examine what funds could be redirected to the border wall from a $13.9 billion February 2018 emergency supplemental that was designed to fund more than 50 disaster relief projects, including in California, Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico, among other states, according to a congressional aide with knowledge of the matter.

One U.S. official said the money could be used to build as much as 315 miles of border wall under the direction of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The White House did not immediately respond to request for comment.

President Donald Trump toured a portion of the southern border and visited with border patrol agents and local leaders in Texas on Thursday as he continued to make his case for a wall along the southern border to stop illegal immigration.

His trip came on the Day 20 of a partial government shutdown triggered by the president's demand that Congress pay $5.7 billion for a border wall, which Democrats refuse to do.

During a roundtable discussion at the border patrol station in McAllen, the president again contended – falsely – that he never said Mexico was going to provide a direct payment for a border wall and attempted to gloss over his past comments to the contrary by arguing he simply intended for the wall to be paid for through the revised NAFTA agreement.

“When I say Mexico is going to pay for the wall, that’s what I said, I didn’t say they are going to write me a check,” Trump said. “I didn’t mean please write me a check, I mean very simply, they are paying for it in the trade deal.”

The president again blasted Democrats, claiming falsely that “Democrats will not fund border security plain and simple” and said their position of "no barrier, no wall is indefensible.”

Asked how long he thought the shutdown could continue, the president wouldn’t offer a prediction but continued to dangle the possibility that he may declare a national emergency as a way to circumvent Congress.

As he left Thursday morning to head to the border, Trump said he "probably ... I would almost say definitely" declare a national emergency to get funding for a border wall if he can't reach a deal with congressional Democrats. "I would say 100 percent," the president continued. "I don't want to say 100 percent because maybe something else comes up."

While the president continues to say he'd rather make a deal with Congress, he again lashed out at Democrats over the current impasse, denied that he pounded on the Situation Room table and said he didn't "rant or rave" at the latest round of White House talks Wednesday before walking out. "I didn't raise my voice. That was a lie," Trump said.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he leaves the White House, Jan. 10, 2019, en route for a trip to the border in Texas as the government shutdown continues.Jacquelyn Martin/AP
President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he leaves the White House, Jan. 10, 2019, en route for a trip to the border in Texas as the government shutdown continues.

"I don't have temper tantrums," the president said, pushing back on how Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had characterized how Trump had acted when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had again told him "no" when he asked whether Democrats would agree to wall funding if he re-opened the government.

Pelosi challenged Trump’s desire to not only build a border wall but to end the partial government shutdown.

“I don’t even know if the president wants the wall,” Pelosi, D-Calif., doubted during a news conference at the Capitol. “I think he just wants just wants the debate on the wall.”

Pelosi recapped her version of the “soap opera” atmosphere of negotiations with the White House, dubbing Trump as “unpresidential” in a meeting with congressional leaders on Wednesday afternoon when he walked out in protest of Democratic objections to building a border wall.

Pelosi suggested Trump lied when he recounted his version of that exit to reporters, claiming that Democratic objections to “border security” more broadly prompted his premature departure.

“He knows, the people in the room know, that that is not what happened,” Pelosi said. “What he said, ‘In 30 days will you support a wall?’ And I said 'no.' He went out and said something completely different because he knows we all support border security and that there’s a better way to do it.”

The president also said China was more "honorable" in negotiations than the Democrats.

"We're negotiating and having tremendous success with China, and I find China, frankly, in many ways, to be far more honorable than Cryin' Chuck and Nancy. China is actually much easier to deal with than the opposition party," Trump said.

Pelosi cracked the door open to cutting a deal through comprehensive immigration reform, even before the government reopens, but pointed to the president’s obsession with the border wall as an obstacle to negotiations on a broader agreement.

“We haven’t had that discussion. What we’re talking about now is just the president’s insistence on a wall,” Pelosi said. “We need to have comprehensive immigration reform.”

Nevertheless, Pelosi said her aides have continued exploring options at the staff level with the White House, but charged the administration keeps changing its position.

“We have been having conversations. We don’t want to be a backdrop for the president to stomp the table and get up and walk out,” Pelosi said. “Our staff all weekend - Saturday, Sunday, have been engaged in these conversations.”

“The president just keeps upping the ante,” Pelosi continued. “In fact, I said to him you’re moving the goal post so many times, they are out of the stadium.”

Pelosi said Democrats have offered to fund all the border security elements from the administration’s budgetary request for Homeland Security – excluding the wall.

“Don’t think of this as normal, because as I say the goalposts keep getting moved,” she said. “But what we did give the president, the White House, is exactly what the Homeland Security department asked for in the budget. But they’ve moved the goalposts.”

Also on Thursday, the president tweeted that he had canceled his trip to Davos, Switzerland, 11 days ahead, for the World Economic forum, blaming the shutdown -- and Democrats.

The White House has said the president's trip to Texas, part of his PR blitz for a border wall, was designed to allow him to meet with those individuals who are "on the front lines" of what they have called a "national security and humanitarian crisis."

He also made his way to the Rio Grande, the winding river separating the U.S. and Mexico.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump talks to the press, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell looks on, after the Republican luncheon at the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 9, 2019, in Washington, DC.Olivier Douliery/Getty Images
President Donald Trump talks to the press, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell looks on, after the Republican luncheon at the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 9, 2019, in Washington, DC.

Whether the president has the legal authority to build a wall by declaring a national emergency -- in which he would circumvent Congress to get military funding for the project -- was under review by White House lawyers, but Trump said he had the power to do so.

"The lawyers have so advised me," Trump said. "I'm not prepared to do that yet, but if I have to, I will. I have no doubt about it, I will. I have the absolute right to declare," Trump said. Later, he added he has a "tremendous" amount of funds available if he chooses that route.

Pelosi refused to tip her hand regarding how the House may react if Trump declares a national emergency to build the wall without congressional approval, but she expressed doubt that congressional Republicans would be satisfied if the president took executive action to circumvent Congress.

“If and when the president does that, you will find out how we will react. But I’m not going to that place now. But I think the president will have problems on his own side of the aisle for exploiting the situation in a way that enhances his power. But not to go there. Let’s see what he does,” she said. “Right now there’s a path. Open up government. Let’s have this discussion on where we can agree on the best ways to protect our borders, to secure our borders, to do so in a way that honors our values.”

Should the president go forward with the move, it would almost certainly be challenged in court.

“I don’t think he really wants a solution,” Pelosi stressed. “I think he loves the distraction that this is from his other problems and that’s most unfortunate. It’s a luxury our country can’t afford under any circumstance. It’s certainly a luxury we can’t afford when he has shut down government, takes pride in it, and says months or years. That’s not the action of a responsible president of the United States.”

The White House has struggled to make the case that there is, in fact, a crisis at the border, with the number of illegal apprehensions trending downward over the last two decades. But the administration points to an uptick of illegal border crossing apprehensions in recent months as evidence.

ABC News' Meridith McGraw and John Parkinson contributed to this report.

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  • mtntrek3

    More evidence that Trump just wants to order everyone around... he is king and no one/nothing else matters.

  • Richard Matthews

    Mexico's "Corps of Engineers"?

  • c0reDump

    "No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time."
    -- US Constitution, Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7

    A President can not spend a single penny without Congress' authorization.

    *drops mic*

  • Top shelf

    'Peaches"? How about we call it "take your stupid wall idea and jam it up your a$$"?

  • mollydtt

    Is this an emergency in the same way as when someone calls 911 when they don’t get enough french fries?

  • mollydtt

    Trump may “think” he doesn’t have temper tantrums, but....

    Just wait until Mueller drops a few more subpoenas, etc. — those arms will be flailing, pounding the air, his voice 3 octaves higher, louder, faster....

    Pence might even raise an eyebrow or blink.

  • ogrot

    Rob the emergency FEMA money from purple states! What a masterclass in politics Trump turned out to be.

  • SATX0227

    So, Senator Graham just had a twitter meltdown, saying "Just met with President @realDonald Trump and his team," Graham tweeted. "It's clear to both of us that Democrats don't want to make a deal and will never support border wall/barriers." They hate President Trump more than they want to fix problems — even problems THEY acknowledged to be real and serious in the past! Democrats will do everything in their power to stop Trump in 2020 Mr. President, Declare a national emergency NOW. Build a wall NOW.

    So, if they really can re-appropriate money from the ACoE from approved projects to the wall, is Senator Graham going to explain to the local and state governments that their bridges and roads can't be repaired because it's now the government's duty to prevent POTUS from having a hissy fit? Season three of The Reality President sucks just as bad as the first two seasons.

  • allworld

    So they also need to find money for a parade?

  • ctla567

    That means they'll go to Mexico but make sure Mexico doesn't write the check to Trump, he'll put the check into his own pocket and walks away from the whole thing and very pleased. But the check should be for US government who will build the wall.

  • pprty

    Good businessmen check out the details BEFORE introducing their objective. Trump never does. That's why he slip-slides his way through a muddled mess and winds up being a fool.

  • John_Cabal

    Trump has a different "management by crisis" style - he creates them

  • JuPMod

    Boy, Trump is sooo ignorant when it comes to how our government works. Most of that $13 billion the Army Corps have is already slated for projects green-lighted for them to do. Only *less* than 2 billion or so is free for any other projects for the future. And as this article stated, the Corps can only do 300 miles or so. So where will the rest of the money come from? Uh-huh, the American public. Anyone have to be fool to see Trump's plans, to go around Congress, is not going to succeed.

  • mm

    I can't get too excited about what Trump's demands are, they change on a daily basis, and will be overridden by the House and shot down. He needs to give it a rest.

  • tet1953

    We got rid of the red here in Maine in November: blue House, blue Senate and blue governor. Let's do that nationally in 2020!

  • foldincaulfield

    Right. Well, there’s a couple ways to think about it. One is the
    things that they are not doing. And the agencies are not doing a lot, as
    you were describing earlier. So, the EPA has
    cut back on routine inspections of plants and toxic facilities. The Food
    and Drug Administration is not doing its regular inspections of food
    packaging facilities. The pipeline safety agency is scaling back its
    inspections. The Securities and Exchange Commission is more or less shut
    down, which means it’s not really able to investigate anything. The
    efforts at the Federal Communication Commission—or, the Federal Trade
    Communication to monitor ongoing consumer fraud, shut down. So, all this
    stuff is happening, and the corporations who were normally being
    inspected or held into account at least a little bit by government
    enforcement, it’s free rein for them right now. And there’s really no
    avenue of redress for consumers, for these very immediate things that
    are happening.

    You know, maybe one of the most worrisome ones, in addition to TSA,
    is at the Federal Aviation Administration, where inspection of
    airplanes, the routine inspection by the government, has been suspended.
    The companies still do their own inspection, but, you know, I feel a
    lot safer knowing that the government is independently doing
    inspections. And that’s not happening. So, that’s one whole huge
    category.

    The other category is things that are still going on by these workers
    who—these employees who are forced to work even though they’re not
    being paid. That’s a huge number of government functions. It’s not
    possible for people who are not being paid to do their job well. It just
    has to be the case, if you’re worried about paying your bills, your
    credit card, what you’re going to do with your kids, you’re upset, and
    you’re not focused on the job, and you’re not going to do as good a job.
    So, the air traffic controllers are still at work, but they’re not
    being paid, and you’ve got to worry about how well they’re able to do
    their job. You’ve reported it also, you know, at the border. The border
    agents are not being paid right now. So, it has to be that they’re going
    to be worse at their job, more brutal, shorter-tempered and so on. And
    as this drags on, it’s going to get more and more severe.

    - democracynow

  • foldincaulfield

    Money to repair roads and bridges and make sure dams don't collapse? Or to initiate a nation-wide public transportation plan that would encourage millions to leave their cars at home when they travel?

    Nah - those aren't emergencies.

  • mh

    Let the states pay for this. If the citizens of each of the border states want the wall let them vote on it in 2020 and let them fund their own wall. We will really see how many people want a wall when their taxes go up (or start taking state taxes from Texas).

  • Starderup

    Army Corps of Engineers is not good news. They know how to throw up stuff in a hurry and leave, but the residents and homeowners in the affected areas are not going to be happy. Let's just say that the environment is not a primary consideration of theirs.

  • sh0000

    It's not like America doesn't need those 50 disaster relief projects.

  • GarfieldRocks

    Good luck with the Army Corps of Engineers, Donald. I've had to deal with those people and I'm here to say that they wake up in a new world every day.

  • tet1953

    I just read about something really bizarre. It's history repeating or truth imitating art or something. Just weird.
    In the late 50s, there was this western marshall type series called "Trackdown" starring Robert Culp. In an episode from 1958 called "The End of the World", a con man named Walter Trump comes to town. He tries to convince the townspeople the end of the world is coming apparently, and to convince them to build a wall around their town. Here is a quote from Walter Trump, found on IMDb:
    "I am the only one. Trust me! I can build a wall around your homes that nothing can penetrate."
    Is that crazy or what?

  • Bree Zee

    "It's 100% yes, but you know, not 100% completely, but exactly 100% I'll scream and rant and hold my breath until everyone agrees I'm right then I'll lie some more and tell everyone I didn't say what I said because I said what I didn't mean but they should have known I didn't mean it because I lie a lot. I mean A LOT."

  • Timehascome

    Update:
    First off...this Article is still yesterday's News...but Secondly...we all (most of us) know that Trump is just as Stupid today as he was yesterday...& all the way back to the early 80's. Trump has...Just reached a higher level of Stupid is all...MAX STUPID.
    Thirdly...I heard mind you that...Trump is now asking for "Private Property/Beware of Dogs" signs placed at the Border if he can't get his Wall.
    I say to Nancy & Chuck..."SAY NO!" Any animal that is used to promote a Trump Idea is...Cruelty to Animals!!

  • Don Roy

    This he said, she said BS is getting old. Both sides have dug in and keep making the hole deeper and deeper. Time for the Democrats to give trump his wall in exchange for a pathway for citizenship and other intelligent border security measures. If our great leaders can't come up with a compromise bill then we as a country are in deep trouble.

  • ROBOTIX JONES

    He truly thinks he's king.

  • mollydtt

    The McConnell Shutdown. Call it what it is.

    Even if Trump vetoed a bill that would open the government, the senate can’t take any vote, and can’t override a presidential veto.

    I guess we’ll have to wait until January 2021 to end the shutdown. No help from the GOP.

  • RettasVegas

    GodSpeedMueller!

  • RettasVegas

    GodSpeedMueller!

  • John Michael Davis

    Maybe he should allow people to buy 1 slat each and have their names on it, like when places sell bricks for park paths and stuff and people get their name on the bricks. It would save either Mexico or America a lot of money and it would provide a permanent record of his racist backwoods supporters.

  • harmony

    Why wasn't he so adamant about getting his wall when the Republicans controlled the House and Senate?

  • PFarnsworth

    Surely, he must be talking to the Mexican Army Corps of Engineers...