President Trump addresses nation on border security, shutdown

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President Donald Trump made a televised plea for border wall funding Tuesday, calling it "a humanitarian crisis."

President Donald Trump made a somber televised plea for border wall funding Tuesday night, seeking an edge in his shutdown battle with congressional Democrats as he declared there is "a humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul."

Addressing the nation from the Oval Office for the first time, Trump argued for funding on security and humanitarian grounds as he sought to put pressure on newly empowered Democrats amid an extended partial government shutdown.

Trump called on Democrats to return to the White House to meet with him, saying it was "immoral" for "politicians to do nothing." Previous meetings have led to no agreement.

VIDEO: President Trump's address to the nation on border security
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President Donald Trump delivers address on border security from Oval Office.

Responding in their own televised remarks, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Trump of misrepresenting the situation on the border as they urged him to reopen closed government departments and turn loose paychecks for hundreds of thousands of workers.

Schumer said Trump "just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration."

Pelosi said Trump's statements during the shutdown have been "full of misinformation and even malice," adding "The president has chosen fear."

VIDEO: Rebuttal to Trump address by Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer
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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer deliver Democratic rebuttal to Trump's border security speech.

Trump, who has long railed against illegal immigration at the border, has recently seized on humanitarian concerns to argue there is a broader crisis that can only be solved with a wall. But critics say the security risks are overblown and the administration is at least partly to blame for the humanitarian situation.

Trump used emotional language, referring to Americans who were killed by people in the country illegally, saying: "I've met with dozens of families whose loved ones were stolen by illegal immigration. I've held the hands of the weeping mothers and embraced the grief-stricken fathers. So sad. So terrible."

The president often highlights such incidents, though studies over several years have found immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States.

Trump has been discussing the idea of declaring a national emergency to allow him to move forward with the wall without getting congressional approval for the $5.7 billion he's requested. But he did not mention that Tuesday night.

With his use of a formal White House speech instead of his favored Twitter blasts, Trump embraced the ceremonial trappings of his office as he tries to exit a political quagmire of his own making. For weeks he has dug in on a signature campaign promise to his base voters, the pledge to build an impregnable "beautiful" wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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The partial government shutdown reached its 18th day, making the closure the second-longest in history. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are going without pay, and government disruptions are hitting home with everyday Americans.

Trump and other administration officials have said the situation at the border has reached a crisis point, both on national security and humanitarian grounds. Two children have died in border custody, and an influx of families is straining health care and immigration services for asylum-seekers.

But critics say the security risks are overblown and the administration is at least partly to blame for the humanitarian situation. While the number of illegal border crossings is down from 1.6 million in 2000 to less than 400,000 last year, the number of families coming over the border has risen sharply. Some say Trump's hardline policies are slowing the process for those people, creating an overwhelming bottleneck at the border.

Trump has only recently zeroed in on the humanitarian issues as part of his pitch for a border wall, though Democrats and others argue that a wall will not fix those problems. And he's not abandoning his security argument.

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President Trump talks about crime at the southern border

In a fundraising email Tuesday addressed to his supporters, Trump declared: "I want to make one thing clear to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi: Your safety is not a political game or a negotiation tactic!"

The White House, which requested eight minutes to make the case on TV Tuesday night, invited representatives from cable news outlets to lunch ahead of the address in a gesture that is usually reserved for the lead-up to State of the Union speeches.

Trump's administration has been discussing the idea of declaring a national emergency to allow him to move forward with the wall without Congress approving the more than $5 billion he wants. Trump was not expected to make that declaration Tuesday night, said two people familiar with the White House plans, but he could change course.

Trump has also been making calls to members of Congress, and several Republicans were expected to visit the White House, according to a person familiar with the outreach but not authorized to publicly discuss private sessions.

The partial government closure, now in its 18th day, is the second-longest in history. With no end in sight, Trump's self-proclaimed deal-making skills are coming under scrutiny. Trying to increase the heat on opponents, the administration has emphasized the humanitarian issues in recent days, with Vice President Mike Pence and top aides making the case on television.

MORE: Trump makes surprise appearance in briefing room to call for border wall

"The passion you hear from President Trump, his determination to take this case to the American people, as he will tonight in his national broadcast from the Oval Office, comes from this president's deep desire to do his job to protect the American people," Pence said Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America." He also appeared on CBS and NBC.

Pence, who led staff-level negations over the weekend, also said the idea of an emergency declaration remains a possibility. 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.

No. 2 House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said Tuesday that he believes Trump does not have legal authority to declare a national emergency and unilaterally build a Southwest border wall. Doing so "certainly could" be an abuse of power, he said.

Leaders of the nonpartisan National Governors Association made public a letter Tuesday sent to Trump and congressional leaders a day earlier, calling on them to reopen the government, saying "shutdown should not be a negotiating tactic as disagreements are resolved."

Leaning on Senate Republicans, some of whom are growing anxious about the impact of the shutdown, Pelosi said the House would begin passing individual bills this week to reopen federal agencies, starting with the Treasury Department to ensure Americans receive their tax refunds.

In a pre-emptive move, the White House said Monday that tax refunds would be paid despite the shutdown. That shutdown exemption would break from past practice and could be challenged.
Related Topics:
politicsgovernment shutdownPresident Donald Trumpu.s. & worldborder wallimmigration reformWashington D.C.
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