As President Donald Trump met with White House officials at Camp David on Sunday afternoon for a 2019 agenda strategy session, press secretary Sarah Sanders said he’s committed to fighting for American citizens’ protection for as long as it takes, despite Democrats’ refusal to negotiate an end to the partial government shutdown, which is now entering its third week.
“The president’s not fighting for the wall. He’s fighting for the protection of American citizens,” said Sanders on Sunday to host Chris Wallace of “Fox News Sunday.”
She noted that Trump meant what he said when he indicated he would keep the government partially shut down for as long as it takes to achieve that objective.
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“[Democrats] agree that we need border security. They just are unwilling to let this president win. And I think at some point they have to decide that they care more about Americans than fighting the president. And so far we haven’t seen a willingness on their side to fully do that,” she added on Sunday morning.
“Democrats have said over and over again that they support border security, that they support protecting American citizens — now it’s time to fulfill some of those statements that they’ve made — work with the president. Let’s get this done; let’s open the government back up,” she added.
While the president is in Maryland strategizing with staff on topics including ending the deadlock over border wall funding, Vice President Mike Pence remains in Washington, D.C., where discussions with Democrats take place in parallel, Fox News’ Kevin Corke reported.
“The first thing that one of the individuals from the Democrats’ side said in the meeting was, ‘We’re not here to make an agreement.’ … They’re going to meet again later this afternoon and hopefully they’ll continue to make progress and continue to move the ball down the field,” said Sanders with guarded optimism.
We’re back at the White House this afternoon working with bipartisan staff from Congressional leadership. @POTUS is committed to securing the border, building the wall, & working to reopen our government.
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) January 6, 2019
Sanders said that America’s immigration system is “completely broken,” and described the national crisis at the border as having both humanitarian and safety and security aspects.
Addressing the opioid crisis, Sanders noted that 90 percent of heroin in the country comes across the southern border, and that the substance is responsible for the death of 300 Americans every month.
Human trafficking and terrorists traveling undetected across the border are additional grave concerns.
She emphasized that though the effectiveness of the wall boasts numbers up to 95 percent and that the wall is a vital part of border security, technology-based deterrents other than a physical wall are crucial, too.
In challenging Sanders on Trump’s care for the American people who are affected by the shutdown, Wallace pointed out that House Democrats had passed six bills last week that would fund eight agencies — which are separate from the Department of Homeland Security. Yet Trump is standing firm.
“We’ve been having this debate for years. At some point we have to say enough is enough … We have to stop kicking the can down the road and just continuing to say, ‘Let’s do it again in 30 days. Let’s do it in 45 days.’”
“Let’s do it now,” said Sanders.
The press secretary pushed back on Wallace’s characterization that Trump is holding hostage hundreds of thousands of workers and the services they provide for negotiating leverage.
“It’s not that. But you also have to look at the six bills. Those aren’t the budget that we submitted, either,” she said, noting that she was not saying the administration stands in opposition to those bills.
“We want to be able to negotiate, but at the same time you can’t just keep passing the buck. This is a major point of contention. And let’s just sit down and work it out.”
“The president certainly doesn’t want any of those things to happen,” she added about the potential fallout of a lengthy shutdown, such as federal tax refund delays and cuts to food stamps and rental assistance payments.
“But you know what else he doesn’t want to see happen? He never wants to make a phone call like the one he made earlier this week, where he spoke to Officer Singh of California’s widow because an illegal immigrant came up off their border and killed him in cold blood. This shouldn’t happen in this country, particularly when we have things that we know can help prevent it.”
Sanders was referring, of course, to 33-year-old officer Ronil Singh of the Newman Police Department in California. The police officer was shot and killed allegedly by an illegal immigrant the day after Christmas.
The loving husband and father, a legal immigrant from Fiji, was laid to rest this weekend.
“The more and more that our border becomes vulnerable and the less and less that we spend time and money protecting it, the more that we’re going to have an influx, not just of terrorists but of human traffickers, drug inflow and people that are coming here to do American citizens harm.”
“That’s what sets America apart from every other country. We value life. That is what makes us unique. And the day that we stop doing that, even if it’s one, 10, or 100,000, that’s when we stop being the greatest country on the face of this earth,” said Sanders.
“We know that roughly — nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists — come into our country illegally, and we know that our most vulnerable point of entry is at our southern border,” said Sanders, who agreed with Wallace that a large number of those terrorists enter at airports.
“They come by air, by land and by sea. And the more and more that our border becomes vulnerable and the less and less that we spend time and money protecting it, the more that we’re going to have an influx, not just of terrorists but of human traffickers, drug inflow and people that are coming here to do American citizens harm.”
Flanked by Pence, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and others top officials on Friday in the Rose Garden, Trump said that he may build the wall by calling a national emergency. Such a strategy would likely entail circumventing congressional approval by using money already authorized for military construction to build the barrier at the southern border.
“The president’s prepared to do what it takes to protect our borders, to protect the people of this country. He knows that the number-one job he has as president and commander-in-chief is to protect its citizens,” said Sanders.
“Whatever action he takes will certainly be lawful and we’re looking at every option we can. This is something the president takes incredibly seriously, is very passionate about, and he’s not going to stop until he figures out the best way to make sure we’re doing everything we can to make America safer and more secure,” she added.
“The American people elected [congressional Democrats] to come here and do more than just fight the president and we hope that they’ll fulfill their constituents’ hopes for them and do exactly that,” Sanders concluded.
As the president returned from Camp David on Sunday afternoon, he said, “I may declare a national emergency dependent on what’s going to happen over the next few days.”
“We have to have border security. If we don’t have border security, we’re going to be crime-ridden, and it’s going to get worse and worse.”
We elected all politicians in the hopes they would grow up, pull their big adult pants on, and learn how to work together for the best of the country as a whole and not just one political party.#ComeOutOfGlassHouses@senatemajldr @VP @POTUS @SpeakerPelosi
— KC Bankruptcy (@kcbankruptcy) January 6, 2019
DEMs want to pass bills to reopen without fixing the problem. Where have we seen this before??? This is no different than Lucy holding the ball for Charlie Brown to kick!!! Except this time it should not and will not work. Congress’ empty promises are legendary. Thank u @POTUS
— Stephen (@stbravo64) January 6, 2019
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Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and regular contributor to LifeZette.