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What's next on the wall showdown

People look at U.S. border patrol guards through the U.S.-Mexico border fence. Photo: Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump has set a Feb. 15 deadline for a deal to get his wall money, and he's signaled he'll declare a national emergency or use other executive powers if he can't get the money through Congress.

The big picture: White House officials I've spoken to claim that House Democrats have privately signaled they're willing to fund a border barrier. (They won't say who.) But even these same White House officials aren't trying to spin that the "conference" to negotiate border security will yield a breakthrough. As the NYT's Jonathan Martin put it: "This is not, to put it mildly, a build-the-wall crew."

A congressional Republican aide, reflecting a widely shared view, texted this prediction: "Next three weeks will be just a messaging war. WH will use proxies to hammer why the border is a national emergency. Dems will use the time to take a victory lap. ... Most likely outcome — no wall money. POTUS uses it to justify a national emergency. Appropriations process blows up for many years."

Between the lines: By declaring a national emergency, Trump would trigger the ability for the White House to move money around that Congress controlled — including Army Corps civil works projects and military construction projects. Members regard these monies as lifelines for their districts or states; Congress protects them zealously.

Go deeper: Trump's self-inflicted slump

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