WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday again stated he will have U.S. troops build his controversial border wall with Mexico if Democrats refuse to fund the project through traditional means, ignoring weeks of controversy over whether such a move is even possible.
“Because of the tremendous dangers at the border, including large scale criminal and drug inflow, the United States military will build the wall!” Trump wrote in a series of morning tweets on immigration and border security issues, repeating a promise he first delivered on Dec. 11.
He also accused Democrats of a “fight to the death” over adequate border security and military funding in recent years. “We won on the military, which is being completely rebuilt. One way or the other, we will win on the wall!”
Lawmakers this week are expected to introduce a two-month budget extension to prevent a government shutdown this month while congressional Democrats fight with Trump over funding for the border wall.
Both sides had hoped to work out a full-year budget deal, but Trump has insisted the plan include more than $5 billion in funding for the wall. Democrats have refused. On Tuesday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders suggested the president could find other ways to fund the construction.
This weekend, incoming House Armed Services Committee chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., said he would oppose any efforts from the White House to shift military money to the wall project.
“He can’t do it without a reprogramming request to Congress,” he said in an MSNBC interview. “He cannot do it on his own, legally. Both Republicans and Democrats do not think the (military) money should go toward building a wall on the border.”
Last week, fellow committee member Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md., asked Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to weigh in on the matter, stating his opinion that “any attempts to fund the wall with already appropriated (military) funding would face serious obstacles in Congress and would undermine much of the bipartisan progress we have made to increase readiness.”
Defense Department officials have not offered comment on the issue.
Several thousand active-duty troops remained deployed along the southern U.S. border as part of a controversial support mission authorized by Trump just before the November midterm elections. Part of their work has included strengthening existing border security measures, including extending barriers and putting up new barbed wire.
Trump has taken to social media numerous times in recent weeks to talk about his border wall plans, including Tuesday night, when he described his vision for the barrier as “artistically designed steel slats” that “will be beautiful and, at the same time, give our country the security that our citizens deserve.”
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.