The behind-the-scenes maneuvers indicate that the administration wants to be poised to quickly declare a national emergency, should Trump choose to do so, by the time Congress hits its Feb. 15 deadline to strike a deal before government funding again runs out. And it signals that White House officials may not have much faith in congressional Republicans to secure the funding in the coming weeks that Trump seeks to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump himself has said the odds of a congressional deal are “less than 50-50.”
One senior White House official told POLITICO the goal is to have such a declaration 100 percent ready and coordinated should Trump decide to move on it rather than scrambling ex post facto to draw up and justify one.
Yet White House lawyers continue to urge extreme caution, leading to internal strife within the administration over the best path forward if Congress cannot come up with a larger immigration deal. One sticking point has been the role that the Pentagon’s Army Corps of Engineers could play in building a Trump-ordered wall — an idea being discussed in the White House.