Update: White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has confirmed during an interview with Fox Business that a national emergency declaration remains an option for building the wall.
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Following a Tuesday night prime-time speech that was widely derided as a major let-down due to its complete lack of any new policy proposals or ultimatums (one pundit described it as a more formalized take on one of Trump's campaign promises), reporters, investors and Washington insiders are trying to figure out what President Trump is thinking in terms of next steps as the government shutdown enters its 19th day.
And though Trump stopped short of calling for a national emergency that would allow him to bypass Congress and start construction (assuming his administration can overcome an almost guaranteed legal challenge), Axios reported Wednesday morning that the national emergency route is still the most likely option for the president, citing one source close to the president.
That is, assuming Trump can quash a growing rebellion among Senate Republicans who are leaning toward backing the Democrats' proposal: Pass a funding bill to end the shutdown then work out a separate compromise on border security (a solution that would almost certainly guarantee that Trump's border wall never gets built).
A source close to President Trump tells Jonathan Swan that he thinks a declaration of a national emergency at the border - which Trump stopped short of last night - remains the most likely ultimate option, because of the latitude it gives the president.
Yes, but: Conservatives, including sources in the conservative legal orbit surrounding Trump, don’t like what they view as an abuse of this authority.
However, Trump's Office of Management and Budget is looking into alternatives for securing money for the border wall that would also allow Trump to bypass an increasingly hostile Congress. One such solution would be tapping funding through the Pentagon. Though there are fears that this could face political obstacles.
Meanwhile, the White House Office of Management and Budget has been exploring other creative ways to get Trump his wall money without having to go through Congress, according to a source close to Russ Vought, a top OMB official.
OMB, at Trump's behest, is exploring whether he can tap Pentagon resources to fund the wall without going to Congress, the source said.
The Pentagon option is one of a couple of possibilities being seriously contemplated, per the source.
Any such move, of course, would face political headwinds, given that even the most obscure pots of federal money have members of Congress jealously guarding them.
Circling back to last night's address, the New York Times reported that President Trump had dismissed the prime-time speech and a planned trip to the border as "unlikely to work" but has decided to follow through at the behest of his advisors.
Yet privately, Mr. Trump dismissed his own new strategy as pointless. In an off-the-record lunch with television anchors hours before the address, he made clear in blunt terms that he was not inclined to give the speech or go to Texas, but was talked into it by advisers, according to two people briefed on the discussion who asked not to be identified sharing details.
"It’s not going to change a damn thing, but I’m still doing it," Mr. Trump said of the border visit, according to one of the people, who was in the room. The trip was merely a photo opportunity, he said. "But," he added, gesturing at his communications aides Bill Shine, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kellyanne Conway, "these people behind you say it’s worth it."
Trump is preparing to embark on a trip to Texas on Thursday where he will visit the border, potentially offering another opportunity for the president to make a wall-related revelation.