Donald Trump has said “100 per cent” he will declare a national emergency to build his Mexico border wall if he fails to reach a deal with the Democrats to end the government shutdown.
In his strongest comments yet on the matter, the US president said he would “definitely” take the move if the Democrats continued to refuse to given him $5.7 billion for the wall.
Calling a national emergency could get Mr Trump out of his current bind, opening up new powers that could allow him to push forward construction without Congress’s approval.
It has political appeal, as Mr Trump could reopen the government, 25 per cent of which has been shut down for 20 days, while saving face by insisting his wall was still coming.
However the move would almost certainly be challenged in court and break recent historical precedent, likely triggering accusations of executive overreach from his critics.
Speaking to reporters outside on the White House, Mr Trump expressed hope a deal with the Democrats could be reached to get border wall funding and end the shutdown.
But he added: "I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency, the lawyers have advised me.
"I'm not prepared to do it yet ... [But] I may do it. If this doesn't work, probably I will do it. I would almost say definitely."
Mr Trump later added that he would “100 per cent” go down that route without a deal. “We're either going to have a win, make a compromise... or I will declare a national emergency,” he said.
Declaring a national emergency opens up special powers to a US president. In total there are an estimated 123 statutory powers which become available when a president makes such a move.
Two in particular, which relate to military construction, could theoretically be used by Mr Trump to build his wall. But experts warn that such a decision would be legally questionable and would likely be challenged.
Because of the Democrats intransigence on Border Security and the great importance of Safety for our Nation, I am respectfully cancelling my very important trip to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum. My warmest regards and apologies to the @WEF!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 10, 2019
During Mr Trump’s question-and-answer session with reporters, conducted before he flew to the US-Mexico border on Thursday, Mr Trump also lashed out at Democrats.
“I find China, frankly, in many ways, to be far more honorable than Cryin' Chuck and Nancy,” Mr Trump said, referring to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the most senior Democrats in the US Senate and House of Representatives.
The US president also claimed he never said that Mexico would “write a cheque” for his border wall during this 2016 election campaign, insisting the country would now pay “indirectly” through his renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement.
Mr Trump also lashed out at White House reporters over the shutdown coverage, saying: “Eighty per cent of you are possible in coordination with the opposition party. The whole thing is ridiculous.”