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Political fight for border wall threatens to further politicize US military

Andrew Dyer, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Political News

Members of the U.S. armed forces might again find themselves at the center of a national political debate that strikes at the heart of their commander-in-chief's signature campaign pledge and raises questions about his use of defense assets in pursuit of a barrier on the southern border.

On Friday, President Donald Trump suggested he could declare a national emergency in order to unlock money for a border wall -- money the newly-seated Democratic majority in Congress has refused to provide.

The fiscal dispute resulted in the ongoing partial government shutdown, which began Dec. 22, while Republicans still held majorities in both the House and Senate.

The president has broad powers to act in defense of the nation, but the fight over border wall funding will hinge on whether the situation at the border rises to the level of a national emergency.

Administration officials have been making the case that it does.

On Friday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said 4,000 people on terrorist watch lists were stopped at the southern border -- a claim NBC News reported was based on data from the Homeland Security department and was mainly comprised of people caught at airports.

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The real number, according to Homeland Security data, was six.

In an address to the nation late Tuesday, Trump stopped short of declaring the situation at the southern border a national emergency and instead described it as a "growing humanitarian and security crisis."

The president said it was Democrats who shut down the government and called on them to allocate $5.7 billion for the border wall, which he said now would be a steel barrier.

Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi of California and Chuck Schumer of New York, in their rebuttal, said the president was appealing to fear, not facts.

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