Trump floats idea of using Pentagon budget to pay for border wall

Paying for the border wall

WHITE HOUSE -- President Trump has long said that Mexico will pay for the border wall -- and Mexico has been just as insistent that it will not. Now the president is floating a new idea: Have the Pentagon pay for it.

It was candidate Trump's signature campaign promise: "Who is gonna pay for the wall? They may not know it yet, but the answer is Mexico!" But last week's budget included $1.6 billion of American taxpayer money for what the president called a down payment on the wall.

"There are a lot of things I am unhappy about in this bill," Mr. Trump said on March 23. 

In a meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan last week, Mr. Trump floated the notion of having the funding for the border wall come out of the Pentagon's $700 billion budget, according to a source familiar with the mater. The president's comments were first reported by the Washington Post.

The White House was asked on Tuesday if it is true that Mexico isn't going to pay for the wall.

"I'm not going to go beyond what the president has already said," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Tuesday. "I still think he is looking for ways for potential ways for that to happen." 

Meanwhile, the president suggested the Pentagon pay for the estimated $25 billion wall.

Over the weekend, he tweeted, "Building a great Border Wall, with drugs (poison) and enemy combatants pouring into our Country, is all about National Defense. Build WALL through M!" 

That "M" is for military, but the White House offered no details.

"I can't get  get into the specifics of that at this point, but I can tell you the continuation of building the wall is ongoing and we're going to continue to move forward in that process," Sanders said. 

"This is not constitutionally appropriate," said Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University. "There's a serious problem when you ask Congress for money and then circumvent Congress when the money is not forthcoming."

But for the president, the politics of this issue is more important than any constitutional debate. It was Mr. Trump's key campaign promise. And on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence declared to a crowd in North Dakota "when it comes to building the wall, we're gonna build it all."