WASHINGTON — President Trump was set to embark 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 was scheduled to board Air Force One with no additional negotiations scheduled with congressional leaders.
The Border Wall: What Has Trump Built So Far?
The existing barrier isn’t a single mile longer than it was when he took office.
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.”
In a meeting with network anchors on Tuesday ahead of his address to the nation, the president dismissed his trip to McAllen, a border community where crime is near a 30-year low, as a “photo op” that he was doing because his top communications advisers counseled him to do.
[A shut down government actually costs more than an open one.]
In Texas, he is expected to meet with Border Patrol officials who are being forced to work without pay because of the funding impasse.
The president has said he has reserved the option of declaring a national emergency to fund construction for the wall, perhaps the central promise that he made to his political base during his campaign, and bypassing a legislative solution.
The White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, is to accompany the president to Texas, according to a White House official who declined to be identified to discuss internal matters. Mr. Cipollone would be among those who would presumably provide a legal rationale should Mr. Trump declare an emergency.
If the president were to declare a national emergency, which some legal experts say is within his authority, it is sure to stoke debate in Congress, and almost certainly will invite a legal challenge in the courts.
To bolster his campaign for the wall, the president has also scheduled an interview with the Fox host Sean Hannity, who will broadcast his show Thursday night from McAllen. Mr. Hannity is one of the president’s highest-profile supporters and is highly influential among his political base.
The president’s trip comes a month before some bollard wall construction in the area, based on a previous congressional appropriation, is set to begin.