Pence says Trump has made 'no decision' on declaring a national emergency

The vice president was also asked about Trump's false claim that former presidents expressed regret over not building a border wall.

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By Allan Smith

Vice President Mike Pence told NBC News on Tuesday that President Donald Trump has yet to make a determination on whether to declare a national emergency in order to build portions of the massive wall he seeks along the U.S. southern border.

"The president has made no decision with regard to a national emergency," Pence said on "Today." Pence earlier said, as Trump has for days, that such a declaration is "something he's looking at and considering."

Asked directly if Trump will use his Oval Office address Tuesday night — his first as president — to declare a national emergency, Pence said he simply expects Trump to "explain to the American people that we have a humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border."

"It is a real crisis," Pence said, adding: "Tonight he will tell the American people why Congress should act."

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Pence's interview, and Trump's national address, comes as a government shutdown stretches into its third week. Trump has demanded more than $5 billion to build the border wall while Democrats have insisted they will not provide Trump with any additional wall funding. Both sides have been at an impasse.

Trump on Friday first suggested declaring a national emergency to reallocate existing, "un-obligated" Defense Department funds toward the building of a border wall. Legal experts told NBC News that such a move was likely to face legal challenges.

Pence was also asked about the president's false claim that "some" former presidents told him that they should have built a wall along the southern border. All four living former presidents have denied having such a conversation with Trump.

"This should have been done by all of the presidents that preceded me,” Trump said Friday in the Rose Garden. "And they all know it. Some of them have told me that we should have done it."

Pence on Tuesday said that Trump was just expressing his "impression."

"Well ... I know the president has said that that was his impression from previous administrations, previous presidents," Pence said. "I know I've seen clips of previous presidents talking about the importance of border security, the importance of addressing the issue of illegal immigration."

In response, Jackson pointed out that what Pence described was different from Trump's claim that former presidents told him a border wall was needed.

"Look, honestly, the American people — the American people want us to address this issue," Pence said.

With hundreds of thousands of federal workers furloughed or working without pay during the shutdown, Pence said he believes Trump "is very sensitive and grateful for all the public servants across this government."

The vice president added that there was "no reason why" those workers' paychecks "shouldn't go out on schedule on Friday."