President Donald Trump made clear Sunday that he is still considering the possibility of declaring a national emergency in order to obtain the funds to build a wall along the border with Mexico. “I may declare a national emergency dependent on what’s going to happen over the next few days,” Trump told reporters as he was getting ready to travel to Camp David on Sunday.
The words amount to a reiteration of something Trump raised Friday at a news conference. When he acknowledged he was considering declaring a national emergency. “Absolutely, we could call a national emergency because of the security of our county,” the president told reporters at a Rose Garden news conference. “I haven’t done it. I may do it. I may do it. But we could call a national emergency and build it very quickly.”
A White House official told CNN on Saturday that the president was leaning toward declaring a national emergency in order get the funding. While it wouldn’t be the administration’s preferred strategy to obtain financing for the wall, it “provides a way out” of the current impasse. “We can only stay like this for so long,” the official said.
Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, said Trump had ordered his Cabinet to search within their budgets to try to find any bit of money that could be funneled to build the wall. “The president has asked every single Cabinet secretary, and the Office of Management and Budget, to go out and find money that can be used legally to guard the southern border,” he said on CNN.
Speaking on Fox, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that a national emergency to build a wall was certainly a possibility that was being analyzed. “The president’s prepared to do what it takes to protect our borders, to protect the people of this country,” Sanders told Chris Wallace. “He knows that the No. 1 job he has as president and commander-in-chief is to protect its citizens.”
Democrats, however, warned the president would face immediate legal challenges if he tried to declare a national emergency to build a wall. Rep. Adam Schiff said he didn’t think Trump would be able to go through with his threat. “Look, if Harry Truman couldn’t nationalize the steel industry during wartime, this President doesn’t have the power to declare an emergency and build a multibillion dollar wall on the border,” Schiff said. “So that’s a non-starter.”
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, meanwhile, said that while the president does have the authority to declare an emergency, any move toward that end would leave the administration “wide open” to a court challenge. “Unfortunately, the short answer is yes. There is a provision in law that says the president can declare an emergency. It’s been done a number of times. But primarily it’s been done to build facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Smith said on ABC. “In this case, I think the president would be wide open to a court challenge saying, ‘where is the emergency?’ You have to establish that in order to do this. But beyond that, this would be a terrible use of Department of Defense dollars.”
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