WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump Friday declared a national emergency to free up billions of dollars for a border wall, a highly controversial move that Democrats and some Republicans have criticized as an overreach of his power.
The announcement, made in the White House Rose Garden, came as Trump was preparing to sign a bill that prevents another government shutdown and also provides $1.375 billion for border fencing – far less than the $5.7 billion the president had demanded for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border and we’re going to do it one way or another,” Trump said.
The emergency declaration is expected to create an extended legal and political battle. Trump himself predicted the issue would end up before the Supreme Court. “I expect to be sued,” he said.
Democrats, who are calling the declaration an abuse of power, plan to take up a resolution in Congress to thwart Trump’s action – although their measure would likely face a presidential veto.
But Trump noted that national declarations have been signed by other presidents, “for far less important things in many cases.”
White House aides said Trump will have $8 billion in total for the wall, including the money Congress approved as well as funds he is tapping from the Pentagon and other sources. Some of that money he can access only through the use of the national emergency.
Trump said his push for a wall is “not complicated.”
“It’s very simple: we want to stop drugs from coming into our country, we want to stop gangs from coming into our country,” he said.
But an analysis of data from the southern border indicates that the vast majority of narcotics enters through U.S. ports of entry, not the wide swaths of border in between where additional barriers could be erected, experts say.
Legal challenges to the emergency declaration could delay construction of Trump’s proposed border wall, but the battle would give Trump a potent political issue to run on in the 2020 presidential election.
Democrats and some Republican lawmakers blasted Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency.
As Trump was speaking, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., issued a joint statement accusing the president of going “outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process.”
“The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public, using every remedy available,” they said.
On Thursday, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., warned that Trump could be violating the Constitution and setting a bad precedent.
“We have a crisis at our southern border, but no crisis justifies violating the Constitution,” he said.
More: Trump’s emergency declaration would trigger a drawn out legal fight
On Thursday, Congress approved the legislation to keep the government funded. The measure was pieced together by a bipartisan group of budget negotiators from the House and the Senate. It would spend $1.375 billion for a barrier along the Texas border and requires the structure be made of previously deployed designs – essentially ruling out concrete but allowing the barrier to made of steel slats.
Trump’s demand for a border wall – a signature promise of his presidential campaign – was at the center of a budget standoff that triggered a record 35-day government shutdown late last year. The shutdown ended in late January when lawmakers passed a temporary funding bill to buy them time to work out an agreement on border security.
Contributing: Eliza Collins, Christal Hayes, Deborah Berry, Ledyard King, Maureen Groppe
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