Trump says he may declare national emergency to secure border wall funding
Administration officials and congressional staff will continue talks on Saturday
U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said he has considered declaring a national emergency to secure funding for a border wall with Mexico, using his executive authority to circumvent congressional approval.
Trump made the comments after a meeting with Democratic leaders that failed to clinch a deal to end an ongoing partial government shutdown, now in its 14th day, which has been fought over Trump's request for $5 billion US to fund his signature border fence.
"We could call a national emergency because of the security of our country, absolutely. We could do it and I haven't done it and I may do it," said Trump, adding he still prefers reaching a negotiated agreement with Congress.
Trump says he could use executive authority to secure funding for the wall:
Trump described the White House meeting as productive but Nancy Pelosi, the newly elected speaker of the House of Representatives after the Democrats took control of the chamber on Thursday, said it was sometimes contentious.
"We told the president we needed the government open," Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters after the meeting in the White House Situation Room. "He resisted. In fact, he said he'd keep the government closed for a very long period of time, months or even years."
Trump, speaking to reporters after the Democrats, confirmed he was prepared for the shutdown to last for months or years but hoped it can end in a few days.
Administration officials and congressional staff members will continue talks on Saturday at 11 a.m., the White House said Friday.
Reopening government comes first, Pelosi says
About 800,000 federal workers have been unpaid due to the closure of about one-quarter of the federal government for the past two weeks as Trump withholds his support for a bill that would fully fund the government until he secures the money for the wall.
The U.S. Constitution assigns Congress the power over funding the federal government, so Trump likely would face legal challenges if he tried to bypass Congress on financing the wall. The project is estimated to cost $23 billion.
Trump says the wall is needed to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs over the border. When he ran for president in 2016, Trump frequently promised to build the wall and vowed Mexico would pay for it, which it has refused to do.
Pelosi said the two sides agreed to continue talking.
"But we recognize on the Democratic side that we really cannot resolve this until we open up government and we made that very clear to the president," she said.
Democrats took over the House this week after gains in last November's congressional elections.
The shutdown is showing signs of straining the country's immigration system and has been blamed for worsening backlogs in courts and complicating hiring for employers.
'Culture of corruption'
Also on Friday, House Democrats unveiled a comprehensive elections and ethics reform package that targets what they call a "culture of corruption in Washington" and aims to reduce the role of money in politics.
The bill, among the first to be considered as Democrats take control of the House after eight years, would make it easier for citizens to register and vote, would tighten election security and would require presidents to disclose their tax returns.
Dubbed the "For the People Act," the legislation marks an effort by Democrats to set a tone of good government as they take the majority following historic gains in the midterm elections.
Pelosi has been cautious about whether her new Democratic majority would ever impeach Trump, but at least two of her members are ready to move forward. California Rep. Brad Sherman and Texas Rep. Al Green introduced articles of impeachment against Trump on Thursday, the first day of the new Congress.
Additionally, a video was posted Thursday that appeared to show Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib telling supporters that the Democrats are going to "impeach the motherf--ker."
Warning: This video contains graphic language:
Here is video of freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan who, when speaking about President Trump, told her supporters "we're gonna go in and impeach the motherf--ker." <a href="https://t.co/wO9AMKsBdN">pic.twitter.com/wO9AMKsBdN</a>—@dcexaminer
Trump said Friday that Tlaib's comments were "disgraceful."
Pelosi said she didn't like the profane language used by one of her new members, but said it's no worse than what Trump has said. House majority leader Steny Hoyer said he doesn't think "comments like these are particularly helpful."
Tlaib, a Detroit-born Palestinian-American who was one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress in November's midterms, stood by her statement in a pair of tweets posted on Friday.
A spokesperson said in a statement that Tlaib was elected to shake up Washington and "absolutely" believes Trump should be impeached.
I will always speak truth to power. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/unapologeticallyMe?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#unapologeticallyMe</a>—@RashidaTlaib
This is not just about Donald Trump. This is about all of us. In the face of this constitutional crisis, we must rise.—@RashidaTlaib
Pelosi said she has a "generational" reaction to that language and wouldn't use it, but she won't censor her colleagues; Pelosi is 78, while Tlaib is 42.
Pelosi hasn't ruled out impeachment, but has called it a "divisive activity" that needs support from both parties. She and House Judiciary Committee chair Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, have said they want to wait for the outcome of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election and contacts with the Trump campaign.
Trump pushed back Friday against some Democrats' calls to unseat him, saying they're only seeking impeachment because they know they can't win the White House in 2020.
Trump also said he's considered using executive authority to build the wall. By declaring a national emergency, he said he could circumvent congressional approval, but added he still prefers trying to negotiate a deal with Congress that includes funding for the border fence.
With files from The Associated Press