White House

Shutdown or national emergency? Trump plays coy in pre-Super Bowl interview

POTUS: Pelosi ‘very bad for our country.’ Her spokesman blasts his ‘recklessness’

President Donald Trump blasted Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an interview with CBS News. Her spokesman fired back as their feud continued 12 days before the government might again shut down. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump used his pre-Super Bowl interview to send mixed signals about his next move in his border wall standoff with Democratic leaders and to blast Speaker Nancy Pelosi as “very bad for our country.”

In an interview set to air Sunday morning ahead of the NFL championship game as part of CBS’s pregame coverage, the president floated a second partial government shutdown and declaring a national emergency that would allow him to access Pentagon funds for his proposed U.S.-Mexico border structure — and inevitable court challenges from Democrats and pro-immigration groups.

“I don't take anything off the table. I don't like to take things off the table,” he said when asked by “Face The Nation” host Margaret Brennan if he will trigger another partial shutdown of the federal government come Feb. 15, when funding for nine Cabinet agencies and smaller offices again will expire as a House-Senate conference committee tries to strike a deal Trump would support.

The president also said he is not taking off the table declaring an emergency, which is opposed by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill.

[Trump teases national emergency declaration could come during SOTU]

“It's that alternative: It’s national emergency,” Trump said. “It’s other things and you know there have been plenty national emergencies called.”

The latter comment shows anew how the president, have a few weeks ago backing away from the emergency option over fears of a legal challenge, appears to be trying to sell the idea to his conservative base and GOP members.

Watch: What is a national emergency? How Congress gave the White House broad, far-reaching powers

Trump did not hold back when Brennan asked about his attempts to negotiate with Pelosi, the rare political foe whom the president has not branded with a derisive nickname.

‘Very rigid’?

“Well, I think that she was very rigid — which I would expect — but I think she is very bad for our country,” the president said. “She knows that you need a barrier. She knows that we need border security.

For her part, Pelosi has called a border wall “immoral.” That label is part of a broader Democratic effort to link Trump's wall to his sharp rhetoric about undocumented migrants. Many Democrats have called these comments racist. Last week, Pelosi signaled she is prepared to engage Trump in a debate about his claim that “walls work.”

On Friday, Drew Hammill, responded directly to Trump’s comments to CBS, which were taped at the White House before he left for his first weekend at his South Florida resort since Thanksgiving weekend.

“President Trump’s recklessness didn’t make us safer, it undermined our security with 35 days of border patrol agents, DEA agents, FBI agents and Homeland Security personnel missing paychecks,” Hammill said. “Democrats have put forward strong, smart and effective border security solutions in the bipartisan conference committee, while the President still refuses to take a second shutdown off the table.

Misepresentations?

“The president’s wild and predictable misrepresentations about Democrats’ commitment to border security do nothing to make our country safer,” he added.

Watch: Remember When Donald Trump Wanted Mexico To Pay for the Wall?

Meantime, Trump also suggested more changes to his Cabinet are coming and said he wants to keep U.S. troops in Iraq to keep an eye on neighboring Iran.

“We spent a fortune on building this incredible base. We might as well keep it,” he said, appearing to refer to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq, where he visited troops in late December. “And one of the reasons I want to keep it is because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is a real problem.”

[Trump to intel chiefs, GOP senators: Time for troops ‘to start coming home’]

When Brennan asked if he was saying he intends to launch a military strike on Iran, which he says is developing a nuclear arsenal despite his intelligence chiefs telling a Senate panel the opposite last week, Trump shot back: “No, because I want to be able to watch Iran.”

“All I want to do is be able to watch. We have an unbelievable and expensive military base built in Iraq. It's perfectly situated for looking at all over different parts of the troubled Middle East rather than pulling up,” the commander in chief said. “And this is what a lot of people don't understand. We're going to keep watching and we're going to keep seeing and if there's trouble, if somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we're going to know it before they do.”

Trump also indicated he would remove all U.S. troops from Afghanistan if a peace pact can be finalized with the Taliban. But he also said that could be reversed quickly if groups like al-Qaeda or the Islamic State set up shop there.

“We'll come back if we have to,” he said. “We have very fast airplanes, we have very good cargo planes.”

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