President Donald Trump today suggested that he didn't have to declare a national emergency to fund his proposed wall on the U.S.–Mexico border, but did so because it would be "faster" than the alternative.
The president's comments came during a Rose Garden press conference, where he officially announced he would be declaring a national emergency. NBC's Peter Alexander asked Trump to "concede" that he was "unable to make the deal that you had promised in the past, and that the deal you're ending up with now from Congress is less than what you could have before a 35-day shutdown."
Prior to the partial government shutdown, congressional leaders were willing to provide roughly $1.6 billion of the more than $5 billion Trump had demanded. The deal they reached earlier this week allocates just $1.375 billion for the construction of 55 miles of border barriers.
Trump would not concede the point. "I went through Congress. I made a deal. I got almost $1.4 billion when I wasn't supposed to get $1," the president said. "But I'm not happy with it."
"I also got billions and billions for other things," he added, citing "ports of entry" and "the purchase of drug equipment."
"But on the wall, they skimped. So I was successful, in that sense, but I wanted to do it faster," he said. "I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn't need to do this. But I'd rather do it much faster."
In saying he "didn't need to do this," Trump seemed to be admitting that the situation at the border is not the crisis he's made it out to be. And with lawsuits challenging his declaration of a national emergency inevitable, he may have figuratively shot himself in the foot.
Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants' Rights Project, seemed to recognize this, tweeting: "keep talking mr president."
Trump acknowledged that his administration will likely be sued over the national emergency. He predicted that just as the Supreme Court upheld his travel ban, it will rule in his favor on this issue as well. "Sadly, we'll be sued and sadly it will go through a process and happily we'll win," he said.
It remains to be seen if he's right. David Bier, an immigration policy analyst for the Cato Institute, told Reason last month: "My belief is that the president can get away with doing almost anything he wants in the name of national security." Maybe. But if he keeps making comments like he made today, maybe not.