In an interview with Daily Mail reporters aboard Air Force One on Friday, President Trump said that he was hopeful that Congress would ultimately fund the border wall that the American people have demanded…but that if they didn’t, he had an alternative he was taking a serious look at.
“We have two options,” Trump said. “We have military, we have Homeland Security.”
The president said last week that he would consider shutting down the government if Congress sent him a new funding extension package that did not include money for the wall. However, Republicans on Capitol Hill are practically begging him not to go that route as they are uncertain about the effect a shutdown would have on their chances in November. Trump, who knows full well what a change in leadership at the House of Representatives would mean for his presidency, may be inclined to take their advice and kick the can down the road once more.
On the other hand, this isn’t the first time Trump and the Republicans have kicked this particular can down the road. Instead of forcing Democrats to pass legislation that includes funding for the wall, Republicans have conceded several times and agreed to take up the border wall legislation at a later time. Eventually, a “later time” needs to mean “this time,” or the voters who chose Trump on the basis of getting illegal immigration under control are going to feel betrayed.
“If it were up – I don’t want to say ‘up to me,’ because it is up to me – I would do it,” he said about a shutdown. “I think it’s a great political issue.”
Alas, he said, the Republicans did not agree.
“They have races, they’re doing well, they’re up,” he said. “And you know, the way they look at it: might be good, might be bad. Politically speaking, I’d rather get it through Congress. If we don’t, I’m looking at that option very seriously.”
That option – using diverted Pentagon funds to begin construction on the wall – would not be uncontroversial. And yet, as the commander-in-chief, the president has every right to declare this a major stand for national security, and there are a million reasons to expect that the argument could hold up against scrutiny. Having a porous, virtually-unprotected border is an open invitation to drug cartels and terrorist organizations who would love to exploit our lack of security. From that perspective, having military funds go to building the wall makes a great deal of sense.
Will it happen like that? Time will tell.
One way or the other, though, the wall needs to be built. And the clock is ticking.