Associated Press and David Martosko, Daily Mail, January 8, 2019
With no breakthrough in sight, President Donald Trump will argue his case to the nation Tuesday night that a ‘crisis’ at the U.S.-Mexico border requires the long and invulnerable wall he’s demanding before ending the partial government shutdown.
Trump’s Oval Office speech — his first as president — will be followed by his visit Thursday to the southern border to highlight his demand for a barrier. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted that he will use the visit to ‘meet with those on the front lines of the national security and humanitarian crisis.’
But in interviews Tuesday morning, Vice President Mike Pence shifted the subject toward other, larger categories of immigrants who could pose a national threat.
‘Three thousand “special interest individuals,” people with suspicious backgrounds that may suggest terrorist connections, were apprehended at our southern border,’ he said on ‘Good Morning America.’
‘Last year alone, 17,000 individuals with criminal histories were apprehended at our southern border,’ Pence added, noting that some of them carried portions of the ’90 per cent of all the heroin that enters this country,’ which comes in through Mexico.
On the ‘TODAY’ show, Pence framed the crisis as a humanitarian catastrophe.
‘Sixty thousand people are now attempting to come into our country illegally every month. That’s more than 2,000 a day,’ he said.
The vice president said that ‘the vast majority of those people now are families and unaccompanied children, and it simply is overwhelming the ability of our customs and border patrol to address it.’
The administration is talking about the idea of declaring a national emergency to allow Trump to move forward on the wall without Congress approving the $5.6 billion he wants. Pence said the White House counsel’s office is looking at the idea but held his cards close to his vest.
Such a move would certainly draw legal challenges, and Trump — who told lawmakers he would be willing to keep the government closed for months or even years — has said he would like to continue negotiations for now.
Trump’s 9:00 p.m. address will be carried live by ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox Broadcasting, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, MSNBC and NBC.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer called on the networks to give Democrats a chance to respond. ‘Now that the television networks have decided to air the President’s address, which if his past statements are any indication will be full of malice and misinformation, Democrats must immediately be given equal airtime,’ they wrote in a joint statement released Monday night.
The talks over ending the shutdown have been at an impasse over Trump’s demand for the wall. He has offered to build the barrier with steel rather than concrete, billing that as a concession to Democrats’ objections. They ‘don’t like concrete, so we’ll give them steel,’ he said.
But Democrats have made clear that they object to the wall itself, not how it’s constructed. They see it as immoral and ineffective and prefer other types of border security funded at already agreed-upon levels.
‘Maybe he thinks he can bully us. But I’m from Brooklyn. You let a bully succeed, you’ll be bullied again worse,’ Schumer said at a breakfast with the Association for a Better New York.
At the White House, spokeswoman Mercedes Schlapp complained that Democratic leaders have yet to define what they mean when they say they are for enhancing border security.
‘Democrats want to secure the border? Great. Come to the table,’ she said Monday. ‘We are willing to come to a deal to reopen the government.’
Trump has tasked Pence during the shutdown fight to negotiate with Democrats, including during talks over the weekend with Democratic staffers. But the vice president is increasingly being called upon to prevent defections in the GOP ranks.