President Donald Trump said Friday he is still open to declaring a national emergency over immigration at the southern border, but made clear he would “rather not,” calling it an “easy way out.”
“It’s the easy way out,” Trump said of the national emergency route. “Congress should do this. This is too simple. It’s too basic. And Congress should do this.”
“If they can’t do it, I will declare a national emergency. I have the absolute right to do it,” Trump said.
One of the reasons Trump is reluctant to declare a national emergency: He believes his administration will be sued and that his actions will be blocked by the 9th Circuit.
“I’ll be sued. It’ll be brought to the 9th Circuit and maybe even though the wording is unambiguous … we’ll probably lose there, too,” Trump said, adding he would “hopefully win” at the Supreme Court.
Earlier in the week, White House lawyers began laying the groundwork for the legal defense of a national emergency declaration on the southern border, officials familiar with the matter said.
Preparations for the legal challenges has included advising the President’s aides on ramping up talk of a humanitarian and security “crisis” at the border, a characterization administration lawyers could use later in court to defend a national emergency.
Trump and others in the White House began using that term more frequently over the past week. The lawyers have suggested the more times the term is used, the more citations they will have in filing a legal defense.
Earlier Friday, Trump continued to bolster his case about the need to build a wall.
“I just got back and it is a far worse situation than almost anyone would understand, an invasion!” Trump tweeted following his Thursday trip to McAllen, Texas. “I have been there numerous times - The Democrats, Cryin’ Chuck and Nancy don’t know how bad and dangerous it is for our ENTIRE COUNTRY.”
He added: “The Steel Barrier, or Wall, should have been built by previous administrations long ago. They never got it done - I will. Without it, our Country cannot be safe. Criminals, Gangs, Human Traffickers, Drugs & so much other big trouble can easily pour in. It can be stopped cold!”
Later during his roundtable, Trump reiterated his belief that the country is “under siege.”
“We have a country that is being invaded by criminals and by drugs and we’re going to stop it,” Trump said, offering no evidence to back up his claims.
Trump’s comments come despite illegal immigration being among the lowest levels historically.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Betsy Klein, Kaitlan Collins and Boris Sanchez contributed to this report.