President Trump declared a national emergency at the southern border to bypass congress and obtain roughly $8 Billion for barriers on Friday, a step that is expected to bring significant legal risk regarding the separation of powers outlined in the Constitution.
“Today, I’m announcing several critical actions that my administration has taken to confront a problem that we have right here at home,” Trump said in a press conference outside the Rose Garden. “So we’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border. And we’re going to do it one way or the other — we have to do it — not because it was a campaign promise, which it is.”
Trump added, “So I’m going to be signing a national emergency. We’re declaring it for virtual invasion purposes. It’s not like it’s complicated, it’s very simple. We want to stop drugs from coming into our country. We want to stop criminals and gangs from coming into our country.”
Trump will separately sign a Congress approved legislation that was passed on Thursday that averts a second government shutdown this year by funding the government that includes a quarter of the $5.7 billion of wall funding he requested to build 55 miles of new barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. The compromise legislation was approved in an 83-16 vote in the Senate while the House of Representatives later backed the measure, by 300 to 128.
The president told reporters he tried his best to work with lawmakers to secure the full funding he requested, but “on the wall, they skimped.”
“I went through Congress. I made a deal. I got almost $1.4 billion when I wasn’t supposed to get one dollar, not one dollar,” Trump said. “But I’m not happy with it. I also got billions and billions of dollars for other things — port of entries, lots of different things. The purchase of drug equipment. More than we were even requesting. The primary fight was on the wall. Everything else, we have so much, as I said, I don’t know what to do with it we have so much money. But on the wall, they skimped.”
Trump explained his failure to secure wall funding during his first two years in office when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress by saying, “I was a little new to the job.” He blamed a “certain people, a particular one, for not having pushed this faster,” a clear jab to former Speaker Paul Ryan without saying his name.
“I never did politics before,” Trump told reporters. “Now I do politics.” I will tell you, I’m very disappointed at certain people, a particular one, for not having pushed this faster.
According to White House officials, Trump plans to redirect $3.6 billion in military construction funding towards the border project, as well as take separate executive action repurposing of $2.5 billion from the Defense Department’s drug-interdiction program and $600 million from the Treasury Department’s asset-forteiture fund. Funding, they said would be taken from “lower-priority construction projects,” such as funding for fixing or repairing existing structures, and would not be touched from flood-mitigation efforts or disaster-relief funds.
The goal is to ultimately build roughly 234 miles of barriers along the border, including bollard-style wall.
Trump acknowledged that his declaration of a national emergency would be litigated in the courts and even predicted a rough road for his side.
“Look, I expect to be sued,” Trump said. “We will have a national emergency. We will then be sued and they will sue us in the 9th Circuit, even though it shouldn’t be there. We will possibly get a bad ruling, we’ll get another bad ruling and we’ll end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we’ll get a fair shake and we’ll win in the Supreme Court.”
After his remarks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, said they would use “every available remedy” to overturn the emergency declaration.
“This is plainly a power grab by a disappointed president, who has gone outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process,” the joint statement read. “The president’s unlawful declaration over a crisis that does not exist does great violence to our Constitution and makes America less safe. The president is not above the law. The Congress cannot let the president shred the Constitution.”
House Democrats instead plan to introduce legislation that would block the declaration, which could pass both chambers and reach the president’s desk if Republicans who have criticized the decision decide to vote to block it. Other Democrats and liberal advocacy groups have said they also plan to file lawsuits to stop the move in federal court.
Republican lawmakers also criticized Trump’s decision in declaring a national emergency, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did offer his support privately, calling the decision “the predictable and understandable consequence of Democrats’ decision to put partisan obstruction ahead of the national interest.” However, he warned the president that he has about two weeks to win over Republicans critical of his move to avoid having Congress vote to reject the declaration.
Pelosi added that Trump’s action in declaring a national emergency could lead to a Democrat president in the future to do the same action on guns, a scenario that GOP lawmakers have feared.
“A Democratic president can declare emergencies, as well,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. “So the precedent that the president is setting here is something that should be met with great unease and dismay by the Republicans.”
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney pushed back on Democrats’ claims of a future Democrat president to declare a national emergency over gun violence or climate change issues, calling the claim “creates zero precedent.”
“It actually creates zero precedent,” Mulvaney told reporters on a media call before Trump’s announcement. “This is authority given to the president in law already. It’s not as if he just didn’t get what he wanted so he’s waving a magic wand and taking a bunch of money.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Trump approved the measure on Friday afternoon in the executive mansion. Reporters were not on hand to witness the bill signing.
President @realDonaldTrump signs the Declaration for a National Emergency to address the national security and humanitarian crisis at the Southern Border. pic.twitter.com/0bUhudtwvS— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) February 15, 2019
Presidents have declared national emergencies under a 1970s-era law about five dozen times, with 31 of those prior emergencies remaining active, according to the Congressional Research Service. However, most of national emergencies deal with foreign crises and involved freezing property, blocking trade or exports or taking other actions against national adversaries, not redirecting money without explicit congressional authorization. White House officials cited only two times that such emergency declarations were used by presidents to spend money without legislative approval — once by President George Bush in 1990 during the run-up to the Persian Gulf war, and again by his son, President George W. Bush, in 2001 after the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
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