(White House photo/Twitter)

Trump Heads to Border, Defends ‘Absolute Right to Declare a National Emergency’

Two days after a nationally televised primetime address in which he labeled the situation at the southern border as a “humanitarian crisis,” President Trump headed to the border at McAllen, Texas.

The trip came as the partial government shutdown nears the end of its third week, and the shutdown will continue, Trump says, until his demands for increased border security funding are approved by Congress.

Trump threatened to declare a national emergency to fund the construction of the border wall without the approval of lawmakers unless Congress gives in to his demands.

“I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency,” Trump told reporters before leaving the White House Thursday. “If [a deal with Congress] doesn’t work out, probably I will do it. I would almost say definitely.”

SEE: Here’s What President Trump Wants to End the Government Shutdown

As the president headed to McAllen, Senate Democrats and Republicans continued to debate the shutdown, with the leaders engaging in a familiar back-and-forth.

On Wednesday, Trump reportedly walked out of a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and a team of Republican negotiators led by Vice President Pence that included House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.

The previous day, Trump delivered his first national address from the Oval Office, and laid out his case for continuing to leave the government shuttered until the Democrats cave on border security funding. Pelosi and Schumer responded that Trump has chosen fear in place of facts, and that he has manufactured the crisis for political gain.

SEE: Trump, Dems Rehash Border Dispute in Primetime Shutdown Showdown

The Democratic negotiators appeared visibly frustrated after the Wednesday meeting, and told reporters outside the White House that President Trump lost his temper and slammed his hand on a table when they said they would not fully fund his border security request.

“Well, unfortunately, the president just got up and walked out,” Schumer said. “He asked Speaker Pelosi, ‘Will you agree to my wall?’ She said no, and he just got up and said, ‘Then we have nothing to discuss,’ and he just walked out. Again, we saw a temper tantrum because he couldn’t get his way, and he just walked out of the meeting.”

Pence and McCarthy said that Schumer and Pelosi’s characterization of the meeting was inaccurate, and that the president began the meeting in a good mood by handing out sweets.

“Well, the president walked into the room and passed out candy. It’s true,” Pence said. “I don’t recall him ever raising his voice or slamming his hand.”

Multimedia journalist James Cullum is Managing Editor of Homeland Security Today's Federal Pages. He has reported for over a decade to newspapers, magazines and websites in the D.C. metro area. He excels at finding order in chaotic environments, from slave liberations in South Sudan to the halls of the power in Washington, D.C.

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