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Why we should expect ‘more of the same’ from the president’s address

President Trump plans to make his case for a border wall during a primetime speech, in which he’s expected to reiterate his argument that the situation at the southern border constitutes a “crisis.” Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff to discuss how the administration justifies the government shutdown, where public opinion stands and how congressional Democrats might respond.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The partial government shutdown is now 18 days old, with no sign of ending soon. Tonight, President Trump addresses the nation on his key demand for ending the closure.

    Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    In Washington, several federal buildings remained shuttered and silent today, as the shutdown claimed a new casualty. Officials say paychecks for 800,000 federal workers will not go out Friday. It was supposed to be their payday.

    But at the White House, aides signaled that President Trump's focus tonight will be less on the shutdown and more on his push for a border wall.

  • Mercedes Schlapp:

    He's going to make his case to the American people, talking about how this is a humanitarian crisis and a national security crisis. And the goal here is to work with Congress to reopen the government and also secure our border.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Democrats have decided to respond jointly, with remarks from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

    Meanwhile, nine Cabinet agencies were closed for an 18th day, including the Departments of Homeland Security, Treasury and Justice. House Democrats say they will begin passing individual spending bills to reopen those agencies, except for Homeland Security, this week.

    Senate Democrats, including New Jersey's Bob Menendez, are pressing Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the bills to the Senate floor, something McConnell says he won't do until the president agrees.

  • Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.:

    I hope my Republican colleagues put both our federal work force and the Americans who depend on their services ahead of the egomania that exists in the White House.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    McConnell says Democrats are the problem, that they need to agree to more border security.

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell, D-Ky.:

    I would urge our Democratic colleagues to get past these harmful political games and get serious about negotiating with the president.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Leaders of the National Governors Association, meanwhile, are also urging an end to the shutdown. In a letter Monday to the president and congressional leaders, they wrote: "A federal government shutdown shouldn't be a negotiating tactic as disagreements are resolved."

    Amid the back and forth, Vice President Pence said again today that declaring a national emergency to get funding for the wall is an option. The president plans to visit the border in Texas on Thursday.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Lisa joins me now, along with Yamiche Alcindor at the White House.

    Yamiche, let me start with you.

    We know what arguments the president has been making. Do we expect to hear more of the same or a different emphasis tonight?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    We expect more of the same.

    The president is expected to give an eight-minute speech, where he's going to lay out what he sees as a humanitarian and a national security crisis. Now, that is in some ways misleading, and the evidence isn't always behind what he's saying, but the president is saying that, on the border, this is his number one priority, that he needs to stop illegal immigration.

    He's going to be talking about drug enforcement. He's going to be talking about terrorism. The president is probably also going to be making the case that Democrats agree with him on some of these issues. He says that Democrats want to see more immigration judges, that they want to see more detention beds, for humanitarian reasons, including families and unaccompanied minors going across the border.

    The president might also talk about a national emergency. The president has floated the idea that he might declare a national emergency, but, as of right now, my sources tell me that isn't clear whether or not he's made that decision.

    But that's going to be what we're going to hear tonight.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And meantime, Lisa, you're telling us that there is growing pushback in the president's own party among Republicans.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right. It's growing. It's still scattered.

    There are increasingly, privately, Republicans and top staffers who say they think the pressure to end the shutdown will mount, especially once workers miss their first paycheck on Friday.

    At the same time, Judy, asking these Republicans especially, do you think the president has the power to declare a national emergency and should he declare a national emergency to build a wall, they are not sure.

    Lindsey Graham, who is one of the most ardent supporters of the president's wall plan, said he thinks that should only be a last resort. Other Republicans who are well-studied on judiciary and border security matters told me today that they aren't sure what the president's argument is, and that they will be watching tonight to try to determine exactly what his argument is.

    But for all sides, Judy, at the Capitol, the president has a very big, important moment tonight to make his case or not.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Yamiche, what are they saying at the White House, though, about that when you ask them, I mean, when you ask them about maybe some of their Republican support may be slipping away?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The White House and President Trump is making the case that his base, as well as Republicans, are sticking with him through this shutdown, that they understand that border security is worth shutting down the government over and that the wall is a central strategy in trying to get what he sees as a crisis on the southern border in check.

    Now, the president is also saying that this is something that he needs to do and that he feels people's pain and understands federal workers are going through a lot right now. But he says, at the end of the day, I need to figure out if we can be safe, and that is central to the border.

    The other thing I want to add is that the president has been talking about this idea of who's to blame. The polls show that 55 percent of Americans blame Republicans or President Trump for the shutdown and about 35 percent blame congressional Democrats. So that is, numbers-wise, what the president is facing in terms of pressure.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And speaking of the Democrats, Lisa, you were telling us the Democrats have a strategy now for how they're dealing with what's going on the Hill.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

    I just came from Democratic leadership's meeting in Senator Schumer's office, and actually just 100 feet away, Republican leaders were meeting in Senator McConnell's office. Democrats now are planning to, at least for now, block most Senate action or delay most Senate action until, they say, there is a vote on these appropriations bills that we expect to start coming out of the House.

    There is no indication that Senator McConnell will bring up those bills until the president agrees. But Democrats are sort of ratcheting up the hardball tactics here in the Senate.

    One other thing, tomorrow could be a very big day, Judy. We expect — we — in fact, I know from sources that there will be another meeting at the White House. The big eight — those are the top eight leaders in the House and Senate, the Republicans and Democrats, including Speaker Pelosi — will again meet at the White House on this topic.

    Historically, Judy, looking at the last big shutdown — I have been studying this all day — it lasted exactly a week after the first paycheck was missed. That first paycheck, again, would be missed on Friday. So it feels like here there's still not as much sympathy for federal workers as I think you see on, say, social media, but perhaps that will change on Friday.

    We will see in the next few days.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Yamiche, we have only got a few seconds left.

    The White House thinks time is on their side right now? How are they thinking about that?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The White House is feeling like time is on their side.

    As Lisa mentioned, there are going to be congressional leaders coming to the White House tomorrow, but also President Trump and Vice President Pence are going to be going over to the Hill. So we're going to see multiple meetings tomorrow. So that sense is that at least people are talking and trying to negotiate.

    But they're still not agreeing on the facts. The president is saying that a wall is the way to stop illegal immigration, and the facts just don't bear it out. Most of the people that are here undocumented or the drugs that are coming through come through legal ports of entry. Most of the suspected terrorists come through airports.

    So the president is still using numbers and facts that Democrats do not agree with.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, Yamiche and Lisa watching it all very closely.

    And, of course, we will be hearing from the president in about a little over two-and-a-half-hours.

    Thank you both.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Thanks.

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