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Trump defends signing national emergency to build border wall

‘Walls work 100 percent,’ Trump said in a Rose Garden press conference

Donald Trump speaks on border security during a Rose Garden event at the White House on Friday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Donald Trump speaks on border security during a Rose Garden event at the White House on Friday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump defended his executive action to access $6.6 billion in Pentagon and Treasury Department funds for his southern border barrier, accusing Democrats of opposing it as part of a “big con” and “a lie.”

Trump said Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Charles E. Schumer “know” border walls work, but they are resisting his proposal purely for political reasons.

“We fight wars that we should never have been in many cases,” Trump said in the Rose Garden. “But we don’t defend our border. … Walls work 100 percent.”

[Why 19 Democrats and 109 Republicans voted against the government funding deal]

The president revealed his likely legal strategy in defending his move in court, saying he acted for “invasion purposes.”

The president did not speak from a teleprompter, and he did not appear to be reading from a binder he carried to his podium. His border and immigration remarks soon resembled a tamer version of one of his campaign rallies.

“We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border, and we’re going to do it one way or the other,” he said.

He opened the press conference with rambling statements that touched on everything from China and UK trade talks to the Islamic State to Syria to the state of the economy and the stock market.

Once he was back on topic, he called a national emergency “a great thing to do” and again claimed undocumented migrants are carrying out an “invasion” of the United States. 

“We want to stop gangs” and “drugs from coming into our country,” he said before veering off into attacks on Democrats. He claimed that if Democrats had won the presidency in 2016, the economy would not be “going through the roof.”

[Republicans have concerns about Trump’s emergency declaration, too]

Trump took a swipe at Democrats, saying “they didn’t even fight us” during a conference committee’s negotiations on matters like bolstering security at ports of entry. He said the other border security funds in the bill he will sign later is “crazy,” adding “I don’t even know what to do with it.”

The White House announced Thursday that Trump would sign a seven-agency spending measure that includes $1.375 billion for fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also confirmed the president will tap his executive authorities for billions more.

“If we had the wall, it would be very easy,” he said of stopping migrants from reaching American soil. “That’s the story: We want to have a very safe country.”

Though Democratic leaders and left-leaning organizations quickly threatened court challenges, Trump said the national emergency he is triggering Friday allows him to shift $3.5 billion from the Defense Department’s military construction fund into the boundary barrier project.

[White House: Wall funds would be ‘back-filled’ in 2020 budget request]

In a new twist he hinted at all week, Trump is also issuing an executive order to transfer $2.5 billion from the military’s drug interdiction initiative and $600 million from a Treasury drug forfeiture program into the border project.

Trump said the military would not be impacted because he is taking “a small amount” from its budget that now exceeds $700 billion.

Trump said he signed emergency declaration documents Friday because of the “invasion” of undocumented migrants, which he again claimed bring drugs and crime into the country.

Democrats and immigration experts say his claims are overblown, however.

Trump had created confusion during the presser saying he had signed the order but would sign the final documents after he went back into the Oval Office. 

At about 2:20 p.m., White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Trump had signed the spending bill. She tweeted a picture at about 11 a.m. depicting Trump signing a document identified as the emergency declaration.   

Watch: Senate leaders interrupt Grassley speech to announce Trump’s support for deal, national emergency plans

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