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Mattis reportedly recommended national emergency for Trump’s wall

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Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reportedly told President Donald Trump just months before his resignation in December that declaring a national emergency would be the most realistic way to build the border wall.

Mattis even told Trump the Pentagon would be able to help build the wall, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people briefed on the conversation.

As a government shutdown over Trump’s border wall stretches into its 21st day and shows few signs of stopping, a national emergency declaration has become an increasingly likely option.

Congressional Democrats have refused to approve the $5.7 billion Trump has requested for the wall, and Trump has refused to back down on his demand that the wall be funded before the government reopens.

During his visit to the US-Mexico border on Thursday, Trump told reporters that he would almost certainly invoke a national emergency if he can’t reach a deal with Democrats.

Read more: Trump said he knows a border wall will work because wheels work, and the Secret Service uses ‘really expensive’ cars with wheels

President Donald Trump speaks as he tours the U.S. border with Mexico Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in McAllen, Texas.
Associated Press/Evan Vucci

“If this doesn’t work out, I probably will do it, I would almost say definitely,” Trump said. “If we don’t make a deal, I would say 100%, but I don’t want to say 100%.”

The Pentagon has even been reviewing options for building border barriers, a Pentagon spokesman told USA Today on Friday.

“The Department of Defense is reviewing available authorities and funding mechanisms to identify options to enable border barrier construction,” Navy Capt. Bill Speaks said.

Trump was also briefed on a proposal that would use a national emergency declaration to take funding from the Army Corps of Engineers to build 315 miles of barriers along the border, NBC News reported Friday, citing three US officials familiar with the matter.

Construction of a new fence takes place as U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen tours a replacement border fence construction site on April 18, 2018 in Calexico, California.
Getty Images/David McNew

The proposal has already attracted some criticism, since those funds were originally dedicated to disaster areas and civil works projects, such as helping Puerto Rico recover from the hurricane that struck the island in 2017.

It’s unclear how effective a national emergency declaration would be, since it could trigger court challenges or prompt Congress to pass legislation to stymie the president’s executive power.

Republican lawmakers have shown a mixture of support and unease with the prospect of declaring a national emergency, with some fearing that a future Democratic president could make a similar move.

“I don’t want the next national emergency to be that some Democrat president says we have to build transgender bathrooms in every elementary school in America,” Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz told The Journal.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said he worried a Democratic president could similarly declare a national emergency over climate change.

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