White House

Trump teases national emergency declaration could come during SOTU

‘Good chance’ he will use his executive powers amid border wall standoff, president says

President Donald J. Trump claps during his first State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives in January 2018. (POOL Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump on Friday said there is a “a good chance” he will declare a national emergency at the southern border to unlock Defense Department dollars for a wall, and signaled he may announce it during his State of the Union address Tuesday.

“I think there’s a good chance we’ll have to do that,” Trump said of a coming emergency declaration, which Democrats and pro-immigration groups have said would be met with an immediate legal challenge.

“We will be looking at a national emergency because I don't think anything is going to happen,” Trump said of the House-Senate panel’s negotiations.

Asked about those promised court challenges, the president seemed newly defiant.

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“Well, we have very strong legal standing,” Trump told reporters hours before he is slated to make his first visit to his South Florida resort since Thanksgiving weekend.

He also again signaled he expects any cases to head for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco — a bench he has harshly criticized and said he wants to file a complaint against.

“When they go to the Ninth Circuit, things happen,” he said. “It’s a shame, what they do.”

But the president signaled some answers on his next move could come during Tuesday’s big speech in the House chamber.

 “I think you’ll find it very exciting,” he said of Tuesday’s address.

“You’ll hear the State of the Union and let’s see what happens,” Trump told reporters during an event about human trafficking across the U.S.-Mexico border. A national emergency declaration, he claimed, “does help the process.”

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Trump said last week he would turn to an emergency if House and Senate conferees cannot hammer out a border security spending deal to avert another government shutdown by Feb. 15.

He also claimed Democrats fear engaging him about his proposed border wall because they would lose a debate about whether, in his words, “walls work.”

But top Democrats this week made clear they are up for such a debate.

“It’s all about two things — cost-benefit analysis, what’s the best way and what do you get for your dollar to protect the border?” Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said.

“And it’s also about — and this will be coming up if [Trump] takes some extraordinary action — the opportunity cost of the money,” she said. “If the money can be used better for technology then let’s see what’s the best [solution]. And by the way, when some of these fences were built, the technology was not what it is today.”`

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.

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