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Trump Ramping Up to Declare National Emergency to Build Border Wall

Trump Ramping Up to Declare National Emergency to Build Border Wall

Unable to get a deal done to secure Congressional approval for his long-promised border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, President Donald Trump appears to be ramping up to declare a national emergency, thereby bypassing Congress to build the wall.

Fresh off a trip to Texas to survey the scene himself, Trump painted a stark picture in a pair of Friday morning tweets that make it look like he is moving closer to declaring a national emergency.

“Humanitarian Crisis at our Southern Border. I just got back and it is a far worse situation than almost anyone would understand, an invasion! I have been there numerous times – The Democrats, Cryin’ Chuck and Nancy don’t know how bad and dangerous it is for our ENTIRE COUNTRY.

“The Steel Barrier, or Wall, should have been built by previous administrations long ago. They never got it done – I will. Without it, our Country cannot be safe. Criminals, Gangs, Human Traffickers, Drugs & so much other big trouble can easily pour in. It can be stopped cold!” Trump said in a pair of back-to-back-tweets.

The administration is reportedly eyeing unused money in the Army Corps of Engineers budget and, more specifically, a disaster spending bill that Congress passed last year that includes $13.9 billion that has not yet been spent, according to the Washington Post:

Trump has urged the Army Corps to determine how fast contracts could be signed and whether construction could begin within 45 days, according to one of the people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the preparations.

The list includes dozens of flood control projects in areas affected by recent natural disasters, including the Texas coastline inundated by Hurricane Harvey and parts of Puerto Rico battered by Hurricane Maria. The military construction budget is also being looked at as a potential source for unspent funds, with billions more potentially available there.

Negotiations are at an impasse and the government shutdown will set a new record for length Saturday after Trump reportedly walked out of a meeting with top Democrats on Wednesday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi again refused to give him the $5.7 billion requested so, according to Trump, he said “bye-bye” and walked out.

Trump said countless times on the campaign trail that Mexico would pay for the wall. Though, Mexico has repeatedly refused and Trump himself has changed his tune a bit.

“I often said during rallies, with little variation, that “Mexico will pay for the Wall.” We have just signed a great new Trade Deal with Mexico. It is Billions of Dollars a year better than the very bad NAFTA deal which it replaces. The difference pays for Wall many times over!” Trump tweeted Friday morning.

The new trade deal he’s referring to, the USMCA, has not yet been ratified by Congress, and it’s unclear where the “Billions of Dollars a year” will come from.

Trump reiterated Thursday that he is open to bypassing Congress to build the border wall.

“Now if we don’t make a deal with Congress, most likely I will do that,” Trump said on Fox News. “I would actually say I would. I can’t imagine any reason why not because I’m allowed to do it. The law is 100 percent on my side.”

Declaring a national emergency is risky at best, especially for a president who ran on the premise of being a great deal maker. If Trump follows through, it will meet legal challenges from Democrats and even some Republicans claim it would be an abuse of power.

State attorneys general or people directly affected by a border wall — such as landowners who have property along the U.S.-Mexico boundary — would probably have to file the lawsuit, and the House could file a friend-of-the-court brief.

Pelosi declined to say how the House would respond to a national emergency declaration when questioned at a news conference Thursday.

“If and when the president does that, you’ll find out how we will react,” Pelosi said. “But I think the president will have problems on his own side of the aisle for exploiting the situation in a way that enhances his power.”

Indeed, a number of Republicans have expressed qualms or outright opposition about Trump declaring a national emergency, including members of the House Armed Services Committee who object to the prospect of the administration targeting funds within the Pentagon’s military construction budget.

Others cautioned against the administration taking executive action on an issue that should be Congress’s purview.

“It’s not the way to do it. I can understand why they’re looking at it,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). “I don’t like the idea of pulling money out of defense and military construction and the Army Corps of Engineers. That’s not a good option.”

Asked Thursday whether she would support Trump invoking national security powers to start wall construction, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), an Appropriations Committee member, replied: “No.”

Dan Eberhart, a GOP donor who is often supportive of Trump, said, “Weaponizing a national emergency to achieve a policy objective is usually something that happens in banana republics, not George Washington’s republic.”

But other Republicans were ready for Trump to take the step.

In a statement Thursday, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) accused Pelosi of intransigence that has brought talks to an end, and said that “it is time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction of a border wall/barrier.”

“I hope it works,” Graham added.

“There’s no question, it’s perfectly legal,” said Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.). “I wish we didn’t have to.”

While most Democrats said Trump would be acting recklessly and illegally if he declared a national emergency, some were open to the approach.

“Honestly I would be glad, because then it would get shut down in court and we could move on,” said Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.), a freshman who unseated a Republican in a swing suburban district. “Hopefully he figures that out pretty quick.”

One Democratic aide called an emergency declaration an “elegant way out of this mess” — one that would allow Trump and Republicans to declare to their most fervent supporters that they had taken Democrats to the brink, while Democrats would quickly move to tie up any construction in the courts.