NEW YORK, Feb 15 (APP):US President Donald Trump on Friday formally declared a national emergency to fund a wall along the border with Mexico, bypassing Democrats-controlled Congress and averting a second bruising government shutdown.
In a televised announcement press conference from Washington, Trump said he was signing the declaration to protect the country from the flow of drugs, criminals and illegal immigrants coming across the southwestern border from Mexico, which he characterized as a profound threat to national security.
“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,” he said. “It’s an invasion,” he added. “We have an invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country.”
The declaration will enable Mr. Trump to divert $3.6 billion budgeted for military construction projects to the border wall, White House officials said. Trump will also use more traditional presidential budgetary discretion to tap $2.5 billion from counternarcotics programmes and $600 million from a Treasury Department asset forfeiture fund.
Combined with the $1.375 billion authorized for fencing in a spending package passed by Congress on Thursday night, Trump would then have about $8 billion in all to advance construction of new barriers and repairs or replacement of existing barriers along the border this year, significantly more than the $5.7 billion that Congress refused to give him.
The president’s decision, previewed on Thursday, triggered instant condemnation from Democrats and some Republicans, who called it an abuse of power.
“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,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, said in a joint statement.
The two vowed to try to overturn the decision, appealing to Republicans to join them. “The president is not above the law,” they said. “The Congress cannot let the president shred the Constitution.”
House Democrats plan to introduce legislation to block the president’s move, which could pass both houses if it wins the votes of the half-dozen Republican senators who have criticized the declaration. That would put the president in the position of issuing the first veto of his presidency.
If such a legislative strategy failed to stop Mr. Trump, the issue would likely be taken to court, either by congressional Democrats, liberal advocacy groups or both. Legal experts have said the administration can make serious arguments to justify its move, but added that courts may decide that it is stretching the intent of the law. The Supreme Court is controlled by a five-member conservative bloc but in recent years it has reined in Republican and Democratic presidents who were judged to be exceeding their authority.
White House officials rejected critics who said Trump was creating a precedent that future presidents could use to ignore the will of Congress. Republicans have expressed concern that a Democratic president could cite Trump’s move to declare a national emergency over gun violence or climate change without legislation from Congress.
“It actually creates zero precedent,” Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, told reporters on Friday morning. “This is authority given to the president in law already. It’s not as if he didn’t get what he wanted and waved a magic wand to get some money.”
Presidents have declared national emergencies under a 1970s-era law 58 times and 31 of those emergencies remain active. But most of them dealt with foreign crises and involved freezing property or taking other actions against national adversaries, not redirecting money without explicit congressional authorization.