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Trump threatens to declare a US national emergency over wall

Border visit: Donald Trump
Border visit: Donald Trump

By Catherine Lacey

US President Donald Trump has threatened to declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress if he cannot reach a deal with Democrats to fund his promised border wall.

He spent most of the day in Texas near the US-Mexico border to draw further attention to his case after negotiations with politicians stalled.

The partial government shutdown dragged into a 20th day with hundreds of thousands of federal workers off the job or working without pay as the wall fight persisted.

Asked about a national emergency declaration, Mr Trump said as he left The White House: "I'm not prepared to do that yet, but if I have to I will."

He contends such a declaration would allow him to direct the military to begin wall construction.

"So we're either going to have a win, make a compromise, because I think a compromise is a win for everybody, or I will declare a national emergency," he said.

In perhaps an ominous sign for those seeking a swift end to the showdown, Mr Trump announced he was cancelling his trip to Davos, Switzerland, later this month, citing Democrats' "intransigence" on border security.

He was to leave on January 21 to attend the World Economic Forum.

It was not clear what a compromise might entail.

Mr Trump says he will not reopen the government without money for the wall.

Democrats say they favour measures to bolster border security but oppose the long, impregnable walling that Mr Trump envisions.

He is asking for $5.7bn for its construction.

Mr Trump's comments came a day after he walked out of a negotiating meeting with congressional leaders. "I said bye-bye", he tweeted afterwards as efforts to reopen the government fell into deeper disarray.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the President of engaging in political games to fire up his base.

"I think the meeting was a set-up so he could walk out," she said.

Affected federal workers face lost pay cheques on Friday, and more people are touched every day by the rollback of government services.

In McAllen, Texas, Mr Trump visited a border patrol station for a roundtable discussion on immigration and border security and got a briefing.

But he expressed his own doubts that his appearance and remarks would change any minds as he seeks money for the wall that has been his signature promise since his presidential campaign.

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