WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump will make his case to Americans on Tuesday that a “crisis” at the U.S. border with Mexico requires a wall in a prime-time address aimed at building support for a campaign promise that has sparked an 18-day government shutdown.
Trump’s Oval Office remarks, scheduled for 9 p.m. will be the president’s latest attempt to convince Democrats, not to mention furloughed government workers, to support his push for a steel barrier on the U.S. southern border that he says is needed to curb the flow of drugs and illegal immigration.
All the major U.S. television networks agreed to air Trump’s speech, prompting Democrats, who say a wall would be expensive, inefficient and immoral, to seek equal time.
“Now that the television networks have decided to air the President’s address, which if his past statements are any indication will be full of malice and misinformation, Democrats must immediately be given equal airtime,” said a joint statement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.
CNN said it would give Democrats time to respond on-air. Other networks did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Vice President Mike Pence, in a round of television interviews on Tuesday morning, said Trump would use his address to explain to the American people that there is “a humanitarian and security crisis” at the southern U.S. border.
The emphasis on a crisis comes as Trump considers declaring a national emergency in an effort to bypass Congress and build the wall without its approval. The White House has not said what about the situation makes it a national emergency.
Pence, speaking to ABC, CBS and NBC, did not say whether Trump had made a decision or if the White House had completed its legal review of such a declaration, which would likely face an immediate legal challenge.
“We believe we can solve this through the legislative process,” he told CBS, urging Democrats to negotiate.
On Monday, Pence told reporters that progress was made in weekend talks that he led between administration officials and congressional staff over how to break the funding impasse and reopen the government.
Trump has invited congressional leadership back to the White House this week for more negotiations, Pence told NBC, but gave no details about the meeting or any other planned talks.
Democrats, who control the U.S. House of Representatives, have rejected Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to help build such a wall. Talks to fund the government have broken down over that point, leaving several government agencies shuttered and some 800,000 government workers furloughed or working without pay.
Trump promised a wall as a candidate for the White House in 2016, making it one of his signature campaign issues and saying Mexico would pay for it. In December, he said he would be “proud” to shut the government down over the issue but has since blamed Democrats. Last week, he said the shutdown could last for months or even years.
Trump will continue pressing his case with a trip to the U.S. southern border on Thursday.
Reporting by Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington and Ken Li in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney and Bill Trott