Trump declares national emergency to access border wall funding, setting stage for legal battles

'We will have a national emergency, and we will then be sued,' president says while signing government funding bill

Chris Riotta
New York
Friday 15 February 2019 17:41 GMT
Donald Trump declares national emergency to release funds for border wall

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Donald Trump is signing a federal funding bill to avoid another government shutdown and announcing a series of executive actions along the US-Mexico border, including the declaration of a national emergency – setting the stage for a major legal showdown.

The border security compromise was approved by congress on Thursday afternoon as the president threatened to declare a national emergency if the billions of dollars he requested to go towards building a wall was not included in the bill.

The measure reportedly includes just $1.4bn (£1bn) for “border barriers,” much less than what the president had previously demanded, and less than previous bipartisan measures had approved for barrier funding.

“It’s a great thing to do because we have an invasion of drugs, an invasion of gangs, an invasion of people, and it’s unacceptable,” Mr Trump said while announcing the national emergency he declared along the US-Mexico border on Friday.

The president’s border wall executive actions are expected to circumvent money from funds targeted for military construction and counterdrug efforts.

“The order is signed,” the president declared. “We will have a national emergency and we will then be sued, and they will sue us in the 9th Circuit, even though it shouldn't be there, and we will possibly get a bad ruling and then we'll get another bad ruling and then we'll end up in the Supreme Court,” he continued, adding the nation’s highest court will “hopefully” provide a "fair shake".

The uproar over Trump’s latest move casts a shadow over what had been a rare display of bipartisanship to address the grinding battle between the White House and lawmakers over border security.

The Senate passed the legislation 83-16, with both parties solidly aboard. The House followed with a 300-128 tally.

Despite widespread opposition in congress to proclaiming an emergency, including by some Republicans, Mr Trump was responding to pressure to act unilaterally to soothe his conservative base and avoid appearing like he’s lost his wall battle.

Word that the president would declare the emergency prompted condemnations from Democrats and threats of lawsuits from states and others who might lose federal money or said he was abusing his authority.

In an unusual joint statement, House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said such the declaration would be “a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract” from Mr Trump’s failure to force Mexico to pay for the wall, as he’s promised for years.

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“Congress will defend our constitutional authorities,” they said. They declined to say whether that meant lawsuits or votes on resolutions to prevent Trump from unilaterally shifting money to wall-building, with aides saying they’d "wait to see what he does".

Additional reporting by AP

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