WASHINGTON (AFP) — President Donald Trump pushed Monday for a climax in his fight over a controversial US-Mexico border wall, announcing a prime time speech and a rare visit to the frontier.
Trump’s plans for a national address at 9:00 p.m. Tuesday (0200 GMT Wednesday) and a trip to the actual border Thursday to signal he wants to force an end to the impasse with congressional Democrats refusing to fund his wall project.
The events — giving Trump the national stage against two very different backdrops — follow his threats to bypass Congress by invoking emergency powers to order wall construction.
Those powers would in theory allow Trump to seek alternative funding for the wall and possibly free him to reopen parts of the federal government shut down as part of his row with Congress.
However, opponents would almost certainly accuse him of presidential overreach and respond with court challenges.
So far, the White House has given no heads up regarding the details of Trump’s message.
Trump simply tweeted that his address from the Oval Office on Tuesday will cover “the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border.”
I am pleased to inform you that I will Address the Nation on the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border. Tuesday night at 9:00 P.M. Eastern.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 7, 2019
Thursday’s trip, his spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said, will be to “the frontlines of the national security and humanitarian crisis.” The exact destination was not made public.
Trump has made building a wall the central theme of his nationalist domestic policies.
He paints the Mexico border as an open gate for criminals, including rapists, terrorists, people with dangerous diseases and phony asylum seekers.
The border has indeed for years seen significant numbers of illegal immigrants and a thriving drug trade. However, fact checkers have debunked the more hair-raising claims, including regarding terrorist threats.
Democrats, who won control of the House of Representatives in midterm legislative elections, say Trump overblows the “crisis” and call the wall a political stunt not worth taxpayer money.
In retaliation, Trump has refused to sign a wider spending package — leaving sections of the federal government without funding and hundreds of thousands of employees facing delays in their paychecks.
Trump has often boasted of his tough negotiating skills as a real estate businessman, and he appears to relish the standoff, insisting he will leave the government without full funding for as long as it takes to force the Democrats’ hand — “even years.”
Invoking emergency powers would potentially be an alternative, allowing him to get around Congress’s control of the budget. But it would pump up the political heat even further, given disagreement over the scope of a president’s right to use the measure.
Further stoking the immigration debate is the looming race between potential Democratic candidates to win the nomination to take on Trump in 2020 presidential elections.
The increasingly emboldened party is in no mood to grant Trump any kind of victory on the divisive issue.