Government Shutdown 2019: President Trump visits U.S.-Mexico border, threatens emergency declaration

WASHINGTON (WLS) -- President Donald Trump threatened on Thursday to declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress if he can't reach a deal with Democrats to fund his promised border wall. He spent most of the day in Texas near the U.S.-Mexico border to draw further attention to his case after negotiations with lawmakers blew up.

The partial government shutdown dragged into a 20th day with hundreds of thousands of federal workers off the job or working without pay as the wall fight persisted.

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Over the weekend the government was partially shut down after lawmakers could not reach an agreement about funding for President Donald Trump's proposed border wall.

Asked about a national emergency declaration, Trump said as he left the White House, "I'm not prepared to do that yet, but if I have to I will." He contends such a declaration would allow him to direct the military to begin wall construction.

"So we're either going to have a win, make a compromise -because I think a compromise is a win for everybody- or I will declare a national emergency," he said.

In perhaps an ominous sign for those seeking a swift end to the showdown, Trump announced he was canceling his trip to Davos, Switzerland, later this month, citing Democrats' "intransigence" on border security. He was to leave Jan. 21 to attend the World Economic Forum.

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As lawmakers and President Donald Trump spar over funding for his border wall, the prospect of a partial government shutdown is on the horizon.

It's not clear what a compromise might entail. Trump says he won't reopen the government without money for the wall. Democrats say they favor measures to bolster border security but oppose the long, impregnable walling that Trump envisions. He is asking $5.7 billion for wall construction.

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Local federal workers are demanding the government shutdown end, concerned for those they serve. Lack fo funding for thngs like domestic violence services could put victims at risk

Lack of federal funding for domestic violence services during the government shutdown could put victims at risk.

Connections for Abused Women and their Children (CAWC) Executive Director Stephanie Love-Patterson said the organization has the resources to continue for now, but smaller agencies could be forced to limit their services without federal funding.

"Because of the government's inability to effectively run the government, victims of domestic violence will get caught in the net," Love-Patterson said.

Ashley Ruiz is a counselor advocate at CAWC. She said her clients have been asking a lot of questions about the impact of the shutdown.

"If I go to an organization and something happens, like, what if any of those resources get cut, and I don't get them, how am I going to do it," Ruiz said.

The Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline could run out of money, according to Amanda Pyron, the executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women's Network, which runs the 24-hour crisis hotline.

Pyron said the hotline answered 25,000 calls last year.

She said if the shutdown continues more than a month, the network will have to divert calls to the Texas-based National Domestic Violence Hotline.

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline on average 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States.

Some federal employees will march every Thursday at Federal Plaza until the shutdown ends.

"I work for the American public. Why aren't they," said Diane Sharrow who took part in Thursday's demonstration.

She and her husband are longtime employees of the Environmental Protection Agency. They're both not getting paid.

"The savings we have is in a 401K that the government runs. We can't access it. We have no income," Sharrow said


Trump's comments came a day after he walked out of a negotiating meeting with congressional leaders - "I said bye-bye," he tweeted afterward - as efforts to reopen the government fell into deeper disarray.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the president of engaging in political games to fire up his base.

I think the meeting was a setup so he could walk out," she said.

Affected federal workers face lost paychecks on Friday, and more people are touched every day by the rollback of government services.

In McAllen, Texas, Trump visited a border patrol station for a roundtable discussion on immigration and border security and got a briefing. But he had expressed his own doubts that his appearance and remarks would change any minds as he seeks money for the wall that's been his signature promise since his presidential campaign.

"A wheel works and a wall works," Trump said, mocking Democratic criticism of his plan. "Nothing like a wall"

Sitting between border patrol officers, local officials and military representatives, Trump insisted that he was "winning" the shutdown fight.

McAllen is located in the Rio Grande Valley, the busiest part of the border for illegal border crossings.

Several hundred protesters were chanting and waving signs opposing a border wall next to the South Texas airport where Trump was set to arrive. Across the street, a smaller group of protesters shouted back, chanting, "Build that wall!"

And in Washington, federal workers denounced Trump at a rally with congressional Democrats, demanding he reopen the government so they can get back to work and receive their paychecks.

Putting the standoff in personal terms, the president tweeted before leaving for Texas: "The Opposition Party & the Dems know we must have Strong Border Security, but don't want to give 'Trump' another one of many wins!"

The White House meeting in the Situation Room ended after just 14 minutes. Democrats said they asked Trump to reopen the government but he told them if he did they wouldn't give him money for the wall. Republicans said Trump posed a direct question to Pelosi: If he opened the government, would she fund the wall? She said no.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Trump slammed his hand on the table. But Trump, who handed out candy at the start of the meeting, disputed that characterization. He said he "didn't smash the table" but "should have."

One result was certain: The shutdown plunged into uncharted territory with no endgame in sight. On Saturday, Washington appears certain to set an ignominious record for the longest government shutdown in the nation's history.

The Democrats see the idea of the long wall as ineffective and even immoral. Trump sees it as an absolute necessity to stop what he calls a crisis of illegal immigration, drug-smuggling and human trafficking at the border.

Trump says Republicans are "very unified," but GOP senators have been publicly uneasy as the standoff ripples across the lives of Americans and interrupts the economy.

He has discussed the possibility of a sweeping immigration compromise with Democrats to protect some immigrants from deportation but provided no clear strategy or timeline for resolving the standoff, according to senators who attended a private lunch with him Wednesday.

There's growing concern about the toll the shutdown is taking on everyday Americans, including disruptions in payments to farmers and trouble for home buyers who are seeking government-backed mortgage loans - "serious stuff," according to Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Senate Republican.

Some Republicans were concerned about Trump's talk of declaring a national emergency at the border, seeing that as unprecedented interference with the right of Congress to allocate funding except in the most dire circumstances.

"I prefer that we get this resolved the old-fashioned way," Thune said.

Companies are doing their best to make accommodations for furloughed federal workers who will not get paid as the shutdown drags on. AT&T announced Thursday that customers affected by the furloughs are eligible for flexible payment options to keep their services running.

"We're here to help ease the burden of trying to pay bills on time during the shutdown," the company said in an email. "As long as the shutdown is in effect, our customer service team will waive late fees, provide extensions and coordinate with you on revised payment schedules."

AT&T customers should visit this website for late payment accommodations, while DirectTV customers can click here.

The Northern Illinois Food Bank also released a statement to reassure their neighbors that they are still open and able to provide food to those in need.

"While the Food Bank administers a number of federal nutrition programs and relies on some government funding, we are confident we can continue serving all our neighbors - including those directly impacted by the shutdown - due to the support from our community. If anyone is facing hunger during this time and is unsure where to get help, please visit and click the "Get Groceries" tab to find the nearest food pantry locations," the food bank said.

WLS-TV contributed to this report
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