Trump Addresses Nation Urging For Wall Funding To Fix Border 'Crisis'

January 09, 2019 - 7:40 am

WASHINGTON (WCBS 880/AP) — President Donald Trump made a televised plea for border wall funding Tuesday night, seeking an edge in the 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."

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."

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.

Earlier in the day, New Jersey senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker said they had planned to fight back if the president had done so.

“I think first of all, legitimately the president would be hard pressed to declare a state of emergency that is factual in basis, and I am sure that if he does it there’ll probably be legal challenges too, at the end of the day,” said Sen. Menendez.

Sen. Booker also notes that he felt the border wall was not about national security and was solely political.

“This president took responsibility for the shutdown, now he’s trying to shift blame. This president said that Mexico would pay for the wall, now he's trying to make American taxpayers pay for it,” said Booker.

Booker says there are countless people being hurt by the government shutdown, including hundreds of TSA workers who have gone three weeks without pay.

Futhermore, in New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke to WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb, saying the funds for the wall would be better spent on healthcare.

“The other thing that's really pissing me off is that, you know, we are the number one terror target in the country. I have spent five years talking to Commissioner Bratton, Commissioner O’Neill, the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force about the threats we face. I cannot remember a single conversation where they said there's a threat to New York City coming from the southern border,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

He added that the notion of any threat coming from the southern border is laughable.

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.

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.

(© 2019 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)