By Michael Tackett, The New York Times
WASHINGTON — President Trump left Washington on Thursday on a trip to McAllen, Texas, that he did not want to take to discuss a crisis on the border that Democrats say does not exist.
Their disagreement has led to a protracted shutdown affecting vast swaths of the federal government that have nothing to do with the construction of a wall between the United States and Mexico.
But as the government shutdown neared the end of its third week, the president left Washington with no additional negotiations scheduled with congressional leaders. In remarks to reporters on Thursday, Mr. Trump left open the possibility of declaring a state of emergency, which could allow him to bypass Congress to fund the wall.
Asked if he would make such a declaration, an action that would likely face legal challenges, Mr. Trump said: ”If this doesn’t work out, probably I will do it. I would almost say definitely.”
The president held a brief and contentious negotiation with Democrats and Republican leaders on Wednesday in the Situation Room that ended abruptly when he stormed out of the room after Speaker Nancy Pelosi rebuffed his overture to reopen the government in exchange for wall funding. Ms. Pelosi and Democrats have consistently said that they would be willing to negotiate border security issues with him if he would reopen the government, even as Ms. Pelosi has held firm to the position that she does not support funding for a barrier wall.
Before his departure, Mr. Trump denied Democrats’ reports that he slammed his hand on the table and had what Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, called “a temper tantrum.”
Cryin Chuck told his favorite lie when he used his standard sound bite that I “slammed the table & walked out of the room. He had a temper tantrum.” Because I knew he would say that, and after Nancy said no to proper Border Security, I politely said bye-bye and left, no slamming!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 10, 2019
“I didn’t smash the table. I should have,” Mr. Trump said later Thursday morning.
Mr. Trump also addressed his longtime promise that Mexico would pay for the border wall.
“When during the campaign I would say, ‘Mexico is going to pay for it,’ obviously, I never said this, and I never meant they are going to write out a check,” Mr. Trump said. That statement was an apparent contradiction of what he has previously said, including in December when he wrote in a Twitter post, “I often stated, “One way or the other, Mexico is going to pay for the Wall.”
On Thursday, Mr. Trump repeated his assertion that Mexico would foot the bill through a renegotiated trade deal, even though the deal, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement does not specify that Mexico would pay for the wall or divert funds to do so. The agreement has yet to be approved by Congress.