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White House weighs emergency, Army funds diversion for border wall: reports

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The White House is laying the groundwork for declaring a national emergency that would let President Donald Trump build sections of a wall along the US-Mexico border, possibly using funds from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Washington Post reported on Thursday, citing two unnamed sources.

[WASHINGTON] The White House is laying the groundwork for declaring a national emergency that would let President Donald Trump build sections of a wall along the US-Mexico border, possibly using funds from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Washington Post reported on Thursday, citing two unnamed sources.

NBC News, in a similar report, said the plan called for building 500km of border barrier by declaring an emergency and tapping a US$13.9 billion Army Corps fund that was set aside for US disaster relief and prevention projects.

Such a strategy, which Reuters could not immediately confirm independently, would escalate a wall-funding standoff between Mr Trump and Democrats in Congress from a policy dispute to a test of presidential power and likely trigger a legal challenge.

Pushing the impasse into the courts could give Mr Trump an escape path from the political box he has put himself in by demanding that any legislation to end a 20-day-old partial government shutdown include US$5.7 billion in funding for his wall, a demand that congressional Democrats oppose.

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The federal government partially shut down on Dec 22 when Mr Trump and lawmakers failed to reach an agreement to fund several agencies whose funding had expired for reasons unrelated to Mr Trump's wall.

NBC News, citing unnamed US officials, said Mr Trump had been briefed on the plan involving the Army Corps while flying to the US southern border on Thursday.

A White House official denied Mr Trump had been briefed on the plan. The Pentagon declined to comment on the news reports.

"The NBC story is totally false, fake news, but doesn't mean the president won't talk to them at some point," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

The Post, citing a congressional aide, said the administration was specifically looking at using some of the US$13.9 billion included in a disaster spending bill passed by Congress last year that has been allocated but not yet spent. 

REUTERS