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How the Pentagon plans to fund Trump’s border wall, as House tries to block it

On Friday, House Democrats took a first step toward terminating President Trump’s national emergency declaration. Some 226 representatives, including a Republican, signed onto a resolution from Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, to block the move. Meanwhile, Pentagon officials briefed congressional staffers on how they might implement the president’s wall order. Lisa Desjardins updates Judy Woodruff.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are set to try to terminate President Trump's national emergency declaration. It would divert Pentagon funds to build a southern border wall. But Democrats introduced a resolution today to block the move.

    At the White House, the president promised to veto any measure passed by Congress to block his emergency declaration.

  • Donald Trump:

    Will I veto it? One hundred percent. One hundred percent. And I don't think it survives a veto. We have too many smart people that who want border security, so I can't imagine it could survive a veto. But I will veto it, yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Later, in a visit to Laredo, Texas, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said there is no national emergency, and that Mr. Trump created a crisis.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:

    We will be fighting him on this usurping the power, of violating the Constitution of the United States, in the Congress, in the courts, and with the American people.

    So this is a path I wouldn't recommend he go down. I don't expect him to sign it, but I do expect us to send it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Meanwhile, Pentagon officials briefed congressional staffers today on how they might implement the president's order.

    Lisa Desjardins spent part of the day of her day at the Pentagon. And she joins me now.

    So, Lisa, what are you learning about when the Pentagon plans to try to implement what the president wants?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I spoke to the same senior Pentagon officials who briefed Congress. They told me this:

    Right now, they are assessing exactly what projects that are needed at the border. They're working with the Department of Homeland Security on that. They think, within weeks, they will have that list. Then, Judy, to my question about timing, they said they think, within months, they hope to be ready through an expedited process to begin some construction.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, if they're going to take this money to use it to build a border wall, where is it coming from?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, there are two large parts from the Department of Defense.

    One has to deal with how they fight drug trafficking. And that sort of is nebulous. We're going to have to watch that closely.

    The other is more specific. It deals with military construction projects that been funded, but have not yet begun. Now, Judy, look at this. I was able to obtain a list of some 400 projects that meet that description. This is a very large universe. Not all of these will be chosen.

    And then, when we asked DOD today over how they're narrowing this universe of what projects they would essentially delay or cancel, they told me this. Look at these factors. First, they said there is one pot they will not use. That is funding for military housing, which has been in the headlines because obviously there is some substandard housing that needs repair.

    Also, because they won't use that, they could, however, use funds for things like schools, hospitals, many other facilities, things that are popular. Now, looking at this list, I crunched the numbers. The states that have the most number of projects on it, California, Maryland, Alaska, and North Carolina, red and blue states alike.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, finally, Lisa, as we reported, the House is expected, planning to vote on this to block what the president's trying to do with this emergency declaration.

    Assuming they do, which is expected, Democratic majority, what happens next?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

    That will pass easily Tuesday is what we expect in the House. Then, Judy, under the special provision triggered by the national emergency, this resolution goes straight to the Senate, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell must hold a vote within 18 days.

    It is expected to pass there. It does need Republican votes. But already we know a few Republican senators pushing back on the national emergency. Judy, the question in both chambers is, once it gets through Congress, as we expect, is there enough support to override a veto?

    A lot of pressure on Republicans over this. We're going to watch very carefully.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Fascinating.

    Lisa Desjardins, thank you for your reporting.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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