By Jordan Fabian - 01/10/19 10:04 AM EST
President Trump on Thursday gave his strongest indication yet that he may declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress to build a wall along the U.S-Mexico border. Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Trump said it would be “surprising to me” if he did not make an emergency declaration if talks with Democrats fail. “If this doesn't work out, probably I will do it. I would almost say definitely,” Trump said. Trump asserted that he has “the absolute right to declare a national emergency,” even though some legal scholars and Democrats say he lacks the power to do so. But the president said his preference is still to work out a deal with Congress for wall funding. The comments come one day after negotiations with top Democrats at the White House ended in acrimonious fashion, with Trump walking out of the room when Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) refused his demand for wall funding. The failure of the talks raised the likelihood that Trump will act on his own to build the wall, which is one of his biggest unfulfilled campaign promises. Trump laid into Democrats during his 15-minute session with reporters Thursday, saying they have “gone crazy” after being “taken over” by young lawmakers who don't “care about crime,” an apparent reference to freshmen members like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). “I find China, frankly, in many ways, to be far more honorable than Cryin' Chuck and Nancy,” Trump said, referring to Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). “China is actually much easier to deal with than the opposition party.” The president also angrily denied Schumer’s claim that he slammed the table before getting up and leaving Wednesday’s negotiating session in the White House Situation Room. “I didn’t pound the table. I didn’t pound the table. That is a lie,” he said. “I don’t have temper tantrums.” Trump’s comments raised the question of if or how negotiations can move forward to end the shutdown, which started Dec. 22 and is affecting about 25 percent of the federal government. The president is traveling on Thursday to the border town of McAllen, Texas, where he plans to press his case that a wall is the only thing that can stop what he says is a “crisis” of drug smuggling and illegal immigration at the southern border. Some in Washington believe the trip is a chance for Trump to lay the groundwork for a national emergency declaration. Traveling with the president is White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who typically does not make such trips but has advised the president on whether a national emergency would be legal. “I’m not prepared to do that yet, but if I have to, I will,” the president said of the emergency declaration. Updated at 10:31 a.m.