WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump is likely to tell Americans in a prime-time speech on Tuesday (Wednesday morning in Pakistan) that the US-Mexico border is in “crisis” and Congress must approve construction of a wall to end a government shutdown.
After weeks of lashing out at Democratic opponents, mostly via Twitter and impromptu press conferences, Trump will deploy the presidency’s biggest PR gun: a formal address to the nation on live television from the White House’s storied Oval Office.
Vice President Mike Pence said that Trump would lay out the “real humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border”. But the White House remained coy about whether Trump will declare a national emergency allowing him to bypass Congress and order his controversial wall project to go ahead using military resources — a move that would send already heated political temperatures to boiling point.
“He’s not saying yes or no,” top adviser Kellyanne Conway told journalists at the White House a few hours before the speech was due. He’s “considering it”.
Trump wants $5.7 billion to construct a wall, or fence, along the Mexican border. Democrats in Congress have refused, saying he is hyping up immigration issues to appeal to his right-wing base.
In retaliation, Trump has refused to sign off on a broader spending bill, leaving some 800,000 federal employees and many more contractors without pay.
That partial government shutdown has brought Washington’s partisan dysfunction into ordinary Americans’ homes across the country.