AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
- President Trump has officially declared a national emergency to unilaterally build physical barriers along significant portions of the United States-Mexico border.
- The Justice Department has warned the White House the emergency declaration will be temporarily blocked by the courts.
- Trump will also sign the border security compromise package passed by Congress, which provides for $1.4 billion of new wall construction.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to address the ongoing issues with border security on Friday in order to unilaterally build physical barriers along significant portions of the United States border with Mexico.
The action ventures into new territory to circumvent Congress and redirect military funding for other purposes, drawing condemnation and confusion from lawmakers across both political parties.
Trump made the announcement in the White House Rose Garden Friday morning, saying "I’m going to be signing a national emergency. It’s been signed many times before."
"They say walls don’t work," Trump said. "Walls work 100 percent of the time."
Trump also downplayed the accusation he could not cut a deal through Congress, adding that he was able to get $1.4 billion, but he was still not satisfied. Trump also acknowledged he expects to face considerable legal challenges for taking executive action.
"I expect to be sued," he said. "I shouldn’t be sued."
In a joint statement responding to the emergency declaration, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called it "unlawful" that "does great violence to our Constitution and makes America less safe, stealing from urgently needed defense funds for the security of our military and our nation."
"The President’s actions clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution," they said. "The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public, using every remedy available."
"The President is not above the law," they added. "The Congress cannot let the President shred the Constitution."
In a conference call with reporters before the announcement, senior administration officials detailed the specifics of the plan. In addition to the $1.4 billion for wall construction appropriated by Congress, approximately $6 billion will be taken from Title X funding and $600 million will be tapped from the Treasury forfeiture fund.
A senior administration official said the wall construction would follow the same design as the one appropriated by Congress, using a steel bollard wall instead of concrete or other prototype walls.
"There’s not a fight over what’s going to be built," an official said.
White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney also downplayed the assertion that what Trump is doing is in any way unprecedented.
"There’s been some concern in the media about whether or not this creates a dangerous precedent," Mulvaney told reporters. "It actually creates zero precedent. This is authority given to the president in the 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."
"I saw Nancy Pelosi said yesterday this sets a precedent for the Democrats to declare a gun emergency the next time they’re in the Oval Office. That’s completely false," he added. "If Democrats could’ve figured out a way to do it, they would have done that already."
Trump’s decision confounded Republicans worried about an overreaching executive
Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement he urged Trump "not to divert significant Department of Defense funding for border security."
"Doing so would have detrimental consequences for our troops as military infrastructure was one of the accounts most deprived during the Obama-era defense cuts," Thornberry said. "And it would undercut one of the most significant accomplishments of the last two years — beginning to repair and rebuild our military. I hope that the President will pursue other options."
On the other hand, Republicans loyal to the president, like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, praised Trump for taking swift action.
"We face a humanitarian and national security crisis at the border that must be addressed and the President’s declaration is merely a statement of fact," he said in a statement. "With the declaration and other legal authorities, the President has access to important tools to take the steps necessary to secure the border."
Legal challenges are almost certain
Long before Trump made the decision but was hanging it over Congress’ head during the government shutdown, Republicans questioned the legality of an emergency declaration, including supporters of the move like South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.
Democrats have vowed to fight it in every way they can and are confident the White House will be rebuked by the courts.
"A declaration of national emergency would be absolutely repugnant and abhorrent to our constitutional principles," Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal on Connecticut told INSIDER in January. "It would lack any basis in fact or the law and would be struck down by the courts."
And the Department of Justice has already warned the White House that the courts will likely block the emergency declaration at least temporarily, ABC News reported.
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