AP Explains: Can Trump declare emergency to build his wall?




  • In Politics
  • 2019-01-08 05:04:07Z
  • By Associated Press
 

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Trump administration is weighing using a national emergency declaration to circumvent Congress and the budget stalemate and force construction of the president's long-promised southern border wall.

"We're looking at a national emergency because we have a national emergency," President Donald Trump told reporters Sunday amid stalled negotiations. He said during a press conference Friday that he would prefer to win the money he's demanding via Congress, but could "absolutely" call an emergency "and build it very quickly."

Such a move would be a dramatic escalation of the current showdown, which has forced a partial government shutdown that's now in its third week. Here's what we know:

WHY AN EMERGENCY DECLARATION?

The administration has spent months trying to figure out how the president might be able to move forward with the wall - the central promise of his 2016 campaign - if Congress refuses to give him the money.

As early as last March, Trump was publicly floating the idea of using the military for the task. "Building a great Border Wall, with drugs (poison) and enemy combatants pouring into our Country, is all about National Defense. Build WALL through M!" he tweeted then.

But it's Congress - not the president - that controls the country's purse strings and must appropriate money he wants to spend.

Enter the emergency declaration, an option the White House counsel's office is currently reviewing. Among the laws Trump could turn to is Section 2808 of the Title 10 U.S. Code pertaining to military construction.

According to the statute, if the president declares an emergency "that requires use of the armed forces," the Defense secretary "may undertake military construction projects, and may authorize the Secretaries of the military departments to undertake military construction projects, not otherwise authorized by law that are necessary to support such use of the armed forces."

Pentagon budget officials are analyzing the 2019 construction budget to determine how many unobligated dollars would be available to use for the wall if Trump settles on a declaration. Under the provision, only those construction budget funds that are not already obligated to other construction projects could be used for the wall.

There are more than 100 such provisions giving the president access to special powers in emergencies. And Congress has typically afforded the president broad authority to determine what constitutes an emergency and what does not, said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the liberty and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice.

"Absolutely it's an abuse of power for the president to declare a national emergency when none exists and to use it to try to get around the democratic process," she said. "But we are in a situation where our legal system for emergency powers almost invites that kind of abuse."

WHAT WOULD HAPPEN THEN?

Such a move is sure to spark a flood of legal challenges questioning the president's authority as well as whether the situation at the border really constitutes an emergency. Trump has been trying to press that case in recent days, insisting the situation qualifies as a security and humanitarian "crisis."

He'll also run into other questions.

"The problem for the Trump administration is that border security is fundamentally a law enforcement issue that does not require the use of the military," said Todd Harrison, a defense budget expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, via email. "So I think they would be on shaking legal ground trying to use emergency authorities this way, and it is almost certain that they would end up in court."

Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said it would be inappropriate for Trump to use Section 2808.

"We are not at war with Mexico, and the proposed border wall has no core (Defense Department) function. Indeed, the Pentagon's most recent National Defense Strategy doesn't mention the southern border as a national defense priority," said Reed, D-R.I.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, speaking on CNN, said that even if Trump could declare an emergency, it would be a "huge mistake."

"There clearly is no national emergency. But they asked me, 'Can he do it?' Yeah he can. It would be wrong, it would be horrible policy and I'm totally and completely against it. But from a legal standpoint he can do it," said Smith, D-Wash.

He and others agreed that any declaration would surely be challenged in court.

SO WILL HE DO IT?

It's unclear. Back when Trump dispatched active-duty troops to the southern border ahead of the midterm elections in what critics panned as a politically-motivated abuse of power, he described the situation as a "national emergency," but never signed an official proclamation.

But Trump is now under growing pressure to find a way to end the shutdown without appearing as though he's caved on the wall.

Trump "needs to use every tool available to him as the commander-in-chief of our armed services to go and enforce our laws by putting the military on our southern border, by having them build the wall if they need to," his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski urged on Fox News.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president remains "prepared to do what it takes to protect our borders, to protect the people of this country."

"We're looking and exploring every option available that the president has," she said.

___

Associated Press National Security Writer Robert Burns contributed to this report.

___

Follow Colvin on Twitter at https://twitter.com/colvinj

COMMENTS

More Related News

Trump warns he may move Republican convention site from NC
Trump warns he may move Republican convention site from NC
  • US
  • 2020-05-25 13:39:18Z

U.S. President Donald Trump warned on Monday that he may move the Republican National Convention from North Carolina set for August if the event faces state social distancing restrictions as a result of the coronavirus. The coronavirus pandemic has forced Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden to halt campaign rallies. Trump said on Twitter that if Democratic Governor Roy Cooper does not immediately answer "whether or not the space will be allowed to be fully occupied," then the party will find "with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site."

Trump Flips Out After Biden Ad Rips Him For Golfing Amid Growing Death Toll
Trump Flips Out After Biden Ad Rips Him For Golfing Amid Growing Death Toll

Trump golfed twice over the weekend as the coronavirus death toll in the United States approached 100,000.

Trump Sows Doubt on Voting. It Keeps Some People Up at Night.
Trump Sows Doubt on Voting. It Keeps Some People Up at Night.

WASHINGTON -- In October, President Donald Trump declares a state of emergency in major cities in battleground states, like Milwaukee and Detroit, banning polling places from opening.A week before the election, Attorney General William Barr announces a criminal investigation into the Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden.After Biden wins a narrow Electoral College victory, Trump refuses to accept the results, won't leave the White House and declines to allow the Biden transition team customary access to agencies before the Jan. 20 inauguration.Far-fetched conspiracy theories? Not to a group of worst-case scenario planners -- mostly Democrats, but some anti-Trump Republicans as well...

Trump claims Jeff Sessions not
Trump claims Jeff Sessions not 'mentally qualified' to be AG as feud escalates

Trump's criticism of his former appointee is just the latest in a yearslong battle with Sessions.

Black Americans are in an abusive relationship with the Democratic party
Black Americans are in an abusive relationship with the Democratic party

An offensive comment by the Democratic presidential candidate is a reminder that black people - all people - deserve better than Joe BidenI am very tired of Joe Biden. My vote for him was already hanging by a thread before his disastrous interview with Charlamagne tha God on Friday. Interrupting the Breakfast Club host's explanation that black people needed assurances that our communities will benefit from his presidency, Biden asserted: "If you've got a problem figuring out whether you're for me or for Trump, then you ain't black."Again, I am very tired of Joe Biden. Not because I am a purist, or have inflexible ideological commitments of what it will take to remove Donald Trump from...

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: Politics