Trump declares national emergency to get $8 billion for wall
WASHINGTON (AP) — Defiant in the face of a stinging budget defeat, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency today to get more federal dollars for his long-promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, relying on a broad interpretation of his powers that was certain to trigger stiff legal challenges.
Bypassing Congress, which approved far less money for his proposed wall than he had sought, Trump said he will use executive action to siphon billions of dollars from federal military construction and counter-drug efforts for the wall. The move drew immediate bipartisan criticism on Capitol Hill and is expected to face rounds of legal challenges.
Trump made the announcement from the Rose Garden, as he claimed illegal immigration was "an invasion of our country."
In a comment that will surely be used to challenge the legal underpinnings of his emergency declaration, Trump hinted at the political realities behind his action. "I could do the wall over a longer period of time," he said. "I didn't need to do this, but I'd rather do it much faster."
Trump's move followed a rare show of bipartisanship when lawmakers voted Thursday to fund large swaths of the government and avoid a repeat of this winter's debilitating five-week government shutdown.
Trump's insistence on wall funding has been a flashpoint in his negotiations with Congress for more than two years, as has the resistance of lawmakers in both parties to meeting the president's request. West Wing aides acknowledged there was insufficient support among Republicans to sustain another shutdown fight, leading Trump to decide to test the limits of his presidential powers.
The money in the bill for border barriers, about $1.4 billion, is far below the $5.7 billion Trump insisted he needed and would finance just a quarter of the more than 200 miles (322 kilometers) he wanted this year.
To bridge the gap, Trump announced he will be spending roughly $8 billion on border barriers – combining the money approved by Congress with funding he plans to repurpose through executive actions, including the national emergency.
Despite widespread opposition in Congress to proclaiming an emergency, including by some Republicans, Trump was responding to pressure to act unilaterally to soothe his conservative base and avoid appearing like he's lost his nerve on his defining promise to voters.
Trump advisers on the campaign and inside the White House insist that, fulfilled or not, the promise of a wall is a winning issue for Trump as he heads into his re-election campaign as long as he doesn't appear to be throwing in the towel.
Word that Trump would declare the emergency prompted condemnations from Democrats and threats of lawsuits from states and others who might lose federal money or said Trump was abusing his authority.