WASHINGTON – A day after budget negotiations blew up in acrimony, President Donald Trump will visit Texas on Thursday in an effort to promote his long-promised wall and convince Americans that they should spend billions more on border security.
The trip to McAllen, Texas, takes place a day after Trump stormed out of a meeting with Democratic leaders who were negotiating an end to a partial government shutdown – now in its 20th day – that has left some 800,000 federal workers without pay.
White House officials hope the trip will draw attention to what Trump has described as a “crisis” on the southwest border that he says can be fixed by spending an additional $5.7 billion to build 234 miles of “new physical barrier” along the border.
Before departing Thursday, Trump claimed there was “tremendous unity” among Republicans.
“There’s only one way” to get border security, he said, “a steel barrier or a wall”
Even though the president repeatedly said during the 2016 campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall, Trump sought to row back on that, insisting that he did not say Mexico would “write a check.” He said Thursday the country would pay “indirectly,” a reference to the pending trade deal that, in fact, would not bring in new revenue, according to experts who have studied the issue.
Trump is expected to take part in a roundtable and receive a briefing from border officials. The president has also granted an interview to Fox News, which the network said will air Thursday night.
Democrats flatly reject the need for a wall and say Trump is overstating the situation on the border. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Trump of storming out of a meeting at the White House on Wednesday while administration officials blamed Democrats for negotiating in bad faith.
Hanging over Trump’s visit to the border are questions about whether he will declare a national emergency, a move that would allow him to redirect defense money for a wall but that would almost certainly trigger court challenges. An emergency declaration could give Trump an off ramp to reopen the government but continue to fight for the wall.
Even as polls suggest a slim majority of Americans blame Trump more than Democrats for the shutdown, now the second-longest in U.S. history, the president has stuck to his demand for a wall, which was the focus of his first formal Oval Office address Tuesday.
Those same polls show that a majority of Republicans back Trump on the wall.
Trump acknowledged he left the negotiating table Wednesday after Democrats refused to consider his plan for a border wall in exchange for reopening shuttered agencies.
“I said bye-bye, nothing else works!” the president tweeted.
Then, on Thursday, he denied Democrats’ claims that he slammed a table on his way out of the meeting, and again blamed Democrats for the impasse.
“I politely said bye-bye and left,” Trump tweeted. “No slamming.”
The effects of the shutdown will only grow with time, even as the White House scrambles to limit the impact. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported a slowdown in food safety inspections, airports cited longer lines at security checkpoints and national parks have been operating for weeks with limited services.
Perhaps a more pressing problem for Trump: Some Republicans have noted the impact on federal employees and a handful of Senate Republicans – including Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – have said they would at least consider a plan to reopen some agencies.
Trump downplayed GOP divisions after meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
“There is GREAT unity with the Republicans in the House and Senate, despite the Fake News Media working in overdrive to make the story look otherwise,” Trump posted on Twitter on Thursday. “The Opposition Party & the Dems know we must have Strong Border Security, but don’t want to give “Trump” another one of many wins!”