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President Trump Says He's 'Not Happy' With Tentative Deal To Avert A Shutdown


So President Trump is trying to decide whether to support that bipartisan deal, even as it doesn't give him everything he wants on border security. So for more, we turn to NPR's Tamara Keith at the White House. Hey, there, Tamara.


CORNISH: So how is President Trump responding to the deal today?

KEITH: Well, he held a Cabinet meeting earlier today, and he said that he hadn't seen all the details yet but that he's not happy.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I can't say I'm happy. I can't say I'm thrilled, but the wall's getting built regardless - doesn't matter because we're doing other things beyond what we're talking about here.

KEITH: This deal, as we just heard Congresswoman Lowey say, comes up well short of the $5.7 billion in wall funding that President Trump had demanded and shut the government down over about a month and a half ago.

This works out to about 55 miles of barrier, when they had asked for more than 200 miles of barrier. And it will be Bollard fencing, which President Trump has called a steel-slat barrier, not a concrete wall, though the president has sort of moved on from the concrete thing a long time ago.

Sean Hannity, who is an ally of the president's, on his Fox show last night called it a garbage compromise.

CORNISH: But in those comments, are people reading it as the president may be thinking of rejecting the deal? I mean, is there a chance we'll see another government shutdown at the end of the week?

KEITH: Well, you never say never. But even though the president and his closest allies seem to hate the deal, he also clearly doesn't want to have another government shutdown.


TRUMP: I don't think you're going to see a shutdown. I wouldn't want to go to it, no. If you did have it, it's the Democrats' fault. And I accepted the first one. And I'm proud of what we've accomplished.

KEITH: And what he accomplished was getting blamed for the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, which put his approval rating through the wringer and really negatively affected hundreds of thousands of federal workers.

But his positive take on it is that everyone is talking about border security now.

CORNISH: At the same time, you mentioned Sean Hannity calling this a garbage compromise. So if the president signs this legislation, where does that leave his promise to his supporters to build a border wall?

KEITH: Well, it leaves it in the rebranding department, partially. That's why we're hearing him now say finish the wall instead of build the wall. And in fact, there has been some small amount of border fence that has been constructed over the past two years and a little bit - like, 4 miles of it that are underway right now.

But as he also alerted to - alluded to in that first clip that we played, the president is now going to try to go around Congress to get the wall built another way. One Trump ally told me that this agreement allows the president to do whatever he wants after he signs it with no downside.

Several Republicans in the Senate have said that they expect him to move money from elsewhere or possibly declare a national emergency to free up funds. And here's what the president himself said about it.


TRUMP: The bottom line is, on the wall, we're building the wall, and we're using other methods other than this. And in addition to this, we have a lot of things going. We have a lot of money in this country, and we're using some of that money, a small percentage of that money, to build the wall, which we desperately need.

KEITH: Now, I've asked numerous people inside the White House in the administration how exactly this work - what legal basis they plan to use, where the money would come from and other questions. And no one has yet given me a specific answer.

But there do appear to be some options out there, including a statute that allows the defense department to construct roads and fences in drug-smuggling corridors. And the White House has been talking a lot about drugs as relates to the border recently. But all of this comes with risk, risk that Congress pushes back, risk that this ends up in court, in legal challenges.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Tamara Keith at the White House. Tamara, thanks for explaining it.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.