As he searches for a way to end the political stalemate with Democratic lawmakers, the president finds himself boxed in — a familiar position when it comes to immigration issues
WASHINGTON — President Trump has stepped back from declaring a national emergency to pay for a border wall, under pressure from congressional Republicans, his own lawyers and advisers, who say using it as a way out of the government shutdown does not justify the precedent it would set and the legal questions it could raise.
“If today the national emergency is border security, tomorrow the national emergency might be climate change,” Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, one of the idea’s critics, said this week. Another Republican, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, told an interviewer that declaring a national emergency should be reserved for “the most extreme circumstances.”
Mr. Trump, who according to aides has grown increasingly frustrated over the refusal of Democrats to bend and sees the shutdown as a road with no off-ramp in sight, hinted on Friday that the warnings were having an effect.
“What we’re not looking to do right now is national emergency,” he told reporters gathered in the Cabinet Room as the shutdown approached its fourth week. Minutes later he contradicted himself, saying that he would declare a state of emergency if he had to.
As Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, have proved immune to Mr. Trump’s threats, the idea of using the president’s constitutional powers to declare an emergency has received close scrutiny in the White House because it would enable Mr. Trump to obtain the $5.7 billion he has sought for construction of a wall without the approval of Congress.
Instead, Mr. Trump would use his authority to transfer funds to the wall that were appropriated by Congress for other purposes. Toward that end, the Army Corps of Engineers has been directed to study whether it can divert about $13.9 million in emergency aide set aside for Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and California. And with the money secured, the president could drop his opposition to the appropriations bills whose passage would end the shutdown.
That would allow Mr. Trump to say he had never backed down from his fight with congressional Democrats or abandoned his pledge to build the wall even if the construction became tied up in legal challenges.
Former White House aides, who noted that Mr. Trump did not focus on the wall during the first two years of his presidency, said the optics of fighting for the wall were more important to the president than erecting it.

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