WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Sunday declined to rule out another government shutdown this month and threatened to declare a national emergency if a bipartisan committee negotiating over agency funding does not include money for his proposed border wall.
In a wide ranging Super Bowl Sunday interview with CBS, Trump also said he wants to keep U.S. troops in Iraq to “watch” Iran, disputed reports that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is considering a run for Senate and said he would steer his son, Barron, away from playing football because of the risk of concussions.
The interview, which will air on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday morning as well as during the network’s Super Bowl pregame coverage at 3:30 p.m., comes as Congress is running against a Feb. 15 deadline to broker a compromise on government funding and the president’s demand for billions more in border wall money. Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill say they are eager to avoid another shutdown after an impasse late last year forced some federal agencies to close for 35 days.
“I don’t like to take things off the table. It’s that alternative. It’s national emergency, it’s other things,” Trump told CBS’s Margaret Brennan. “We’re going to have a strong border. And the only way you have a strong border is you need a physical barrier.”
Trump has threatened for weeks to declare a national emergency along the southwest border, a move that would allow him to redirect billions in military construction money for the wall. However, a presidential emergency declaration would almost certainly draw legal challenges and could be tied up in courts for years.
The president expected to heavily focus on immigration and his request for border wall funding during his State of the Union address on Tuesday night. White House aides have said the address will attempt to frame that and other issues in bipartisan terms.
Trump also discussed:
His longstanding feud with NFL players over kneeling during the national anthem. “You have to respect our flag and our country,” Trump said. The president said he understood the players’ concerns about police violence against African Americans and pointed to the bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation he signed late last year. The legislation dealt mainly with prison and sentencing reforms. “I think there are plenty of places and times you can protest and you can do a lot. But you can’t do that,” Trump said.
Why he would not push his son to play football. Trump was responding to a question about the risk of brain injuries from the game. “I hate to say it because I love to watch football. I think the NFL is a great product, but I really think that as far as my son – well I’ve heard NFL players saying they wouldn’t let their sons play football. So. It’s not totally unique, but I would have a hard time with it,” he said.
Declined to say whether special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election should be made public. “That’s up to the attorney general. I don’t know. It depends. I have no idea what it’s going to say,” Trump said.
Repeated his commitment to withdraw some troops from Afghanistan and Syria but said he wanted to keep some U.S. forces in Iraq to keep an eye on Iran. “All I want to do is be able to watch,” Trump said. “We have an unbelievable and expensive military base built in Iraq. It’s perfectly situated for looking at all over different parts of the troubled Middle East rather than pulling up.”
Disputed reports that Pompeo is considering a Senate run from his home state of Kansas. Trump dismissed reports that Pompeo had spoken with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about seeking Sen. Pat Roberts seat. Roberts is retiring in 2020. “Well, he may have spoken to him, but I think he loves being Secretary of State,” Trump said. “I asked him the question the other day, he says he’s absolutely not leaving.”