The Department of Defense backed up President Donald Trump’s assertion that he could have the military build a border wall if Congress failed to fund further construction of one.
During a contentious discussion at the White House on Tuesday, Trump told Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, “If we don’t get what we want, one way or the other, whether it’s through you, through military, through anything you want to call, I will shut down the government.”
The chief executive is requesting $5 billion for wall construction, while Schumer has agreed to $1.6 billion for border security.
While Trump argued he could garner support to get the funding in the Republican-controlled House, he needs 10 votes in the Senate in order to overcome a likely filibuster.
The Defense Department confirmed in a statement that the president has the legal authority to direct the DoD to build a border wall.
“To date, there is no plan to build sections of the wall. However, Congress has provided options under Title 10 U.S. Code that could permit the Department of Defense to fund border barrier projects, such as in support of counter drug operations or national emergencies,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jamie Davis said in a statement on Tuesday.
Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning, “People do not yet realize how much of the Wall, including really effective renovation, has already been built. If the Democrats do not give us the votes to secure our Country, the Military will build the remaining sections of the Wall. They know how important it is!”
….People do not yet realize how much of the Wall, including really effective renovation, has already been built. If the Democrats do not give us the votes to secure our Country, the Military will build the remaining sections of the Wall. They know how important it is!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 11, 2018
“A lot of wall is renovated,” Trump told Schumer and Pelosi during their meeting. “We have walls that were in very bad condition that are now in A1 tip-top shape. And, frankly, some wall has been reinforced by our military. Our military has done a fantastic job. So the wall will get built, but we may not — we may not have an agreement today. We probably won’t.”
Trump: “I am proud to shut down the government for border security … I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it” pic.twitter.com/o4xmLRMOTH
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) December 11, 2018
The president contended the issue of funding the wall is a matter of national security, pointing to both illegal drugs “pouring into the country” and potential terrorist infiltration.
“People are pouring into our country, including terrorists. We caught 10 terrorists over the last very short period of time,” Trump said. “Our border agents, all of our law enforcement has been incredible what they’ve done. But we caught 10 terrorists. These are people that were looking to do harm.”
Trump noted illegal alien traffic dropped 92 percent in the San Diego sector; 95 percent in El Paso; 92 percent and 95 percent in Tucson and Yuma, Arizona, respectively.
Pelosi questioned the accuracy of Trump’s numbers, but they are consistent with statistics given by the Border Patrol to NPR in 2006, following the initial erection of double and triple fencing in the San Diego area.
Border Patrol agent Jim Henry told the news outlet apprehensions in his sector dropped 95 percent, from 100,000 to 5,000 per year.
Schumer argued if the president has been able to get so much good work done at the border over the past year, he should be satisfied to keep that level of funding, rather than holding out for $5 billion.
“Chuck, we can build a much bigger section with more money,” Trump responded.
Democratic Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters on Tuesday that he would try to stop Trump from using the military to build a wall, the Washington Examiner reported.
“We can certainly put legislation in that says no Department of Defense money should go towards the wall and that would preclude using our soldiers as part of the effort to build it,” Smith said. “I think there is some bipartisan support for that idea precisely because Republicans see greater defense needs.”
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