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Photo: Carlos Barria, Pool/Getty Images

A source close to President Trump tells Jonathan Swan that he thinks a declaration of a national emergency at the border — which Trump stopped short of last night — remains the most likely ultimate option, because of the latitude it gives the president.

Yes, but: Conservatives, including sources in the conservative legal orbit surrounding Trump, don’t like what they view as an abuse of this authority.

Meanwhile, the White House Office of Management and Budget has been exploring other creative ways to get Trump his wall money without having to go through Congress, according to a source close to Russ Vought, a top OMB official.

  • OMB, at Trump's behest, is exploring whether he can tap Pentagon resources to fund the wall without going to Congress, the source said.
  • The Pentagon option is one of a couple of possibilities being seriously contemplated, per the source.
  • Any such move, of course, would face political headwinds, given that even the most obscure pots of federal money have members of Congress jealously guarding them.

Privately, President Trump "dismissed his own new strategy as pointless," the N.Y. Times' Peter Baker reports and I've confirmed:

  • "In an off-the-record lunch with television anchors hours before the address, he made clear in blunt terms that he was not inclined to give the speech or go to Texas [for a border visit tomorrow], but was talked into it by advisers."

"It’s not going to change a damn thing, but I’m still doing it," Trump said.

  • "The trip was merely a photo opportunity, he said. 'But,' he added, gesturing at his communications aides Bill Shine, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kellyanne Conway, 'these people behind you say it’s worth it.'"

P.S. The N.Y. Times' Maggie Haberman, post-gaming on CNN: "It's just not a natural setting for him, and we didn't hear a whole lot new."

  • "We certainly heard a whole lot — although less than usual — things that were not true. They are still talking past each other, these two sides."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Exclusive: GOP Leader McCarthy asks to meet with Biden about the border

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy at CPAC. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has requested a meeting with President Biden to discuss the rising numbers of unaccompanied migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border, in a letter sent on Friday.

Why it matters: Biden is facing criticism from the right and the left as agency actions and media reports reveal spiking numbers of migrant children overwhelming parts of the U.S. immigration system. Recent data shows an average of 321 kids being referred to migrant shelters each day, as Axios reported.

Vaccine hesitancy drops, but with partisan divide

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

69% of the public intends to get a COVID vaccine or already has, up significantly from 60% in November, according to a report out Friday from the Pew Research Center.

Yes, but: The issue has become even more partisan, with 56% of Republicans who say they want or have already received a coronavirus vaccine compared to 83% of Democrats.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
3 hours ago - Energy & Environment

China's 5-year plan is hazy on climate

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

China's highly anticipated 5-year plan revealed on Friday provides little new information about its climate initiatives, leaving plenty to discuss in multinational meetings this year and lots of blanks for China to fill in later.

Driving the news: The top-line targets for 2025, per state media, aim to lower energy intensity by 13.5% and carbon emissions intensity by 18% — that is, measures of energy use and emissions relative to economic output.