President Trump knew that it was unlikely that legislators would give him the billions of dollars he wanted to erect a wall on the southern border. In early 2018, he gave his staff a directive: Find a way to do it without Congress.
It was not an easy task. The White House had the opportunity to spend money as it wished, but could not move the necessary billions as it pleased. Trump could declare a national emergency, but White House lawyers repeatedly warned him that the risk of failure in court was high.
Friday, Trump did it anyway. The president told the press that he was citing his power to declare a national emergency, then he acknowledged what his lawyers had warned him about: he will be prosecuted and, at least initially, will probably lose.
This remarkable moment, it is said, marked the culmination of months of heated internal debate between the White House Council Office, the Department of Justice, the Office of Management and Budget, the legislators and the President on the financing of the wall.
Trump – who had hesitated about whether the spectacular march was the right one – told the press that he was deeply frustrated by the fact that his wall had not been funded earlier in his administration and that he regulated this right.
"But we are progressing now," said Trump. "We are doing it."
The announcement was immediately greeted with pledges by states, legislators and lobbies. In the Civil Division of the Justice Department, the lawyers were preparing to face the sad reality of the Trump administration: they would soon be back in court, fighting a difficult battle.
White House lawyers, including White House lawyer Pat Cipollone, have repeatedly warned Trump against the legal risks of lawsuits. On Friday, some White House lawyers were frustrated – and still skeptical about the logic of the Commander-in-Chief, according to people close to the case who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss deliberations. internal.
"Look, I'm waiting to be sued," said Trump in the Rose Garden, adding that "they will sue us in the 9th circuit, even though it should not be there, and we'll have possibly a bad decision, then we will have another bad decision, and then we will end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we will get a fair shake and win in the Supreme Court. "
Building a wall on the southern border was the cornerstone of Trump's presidential campaign, and even before the Democrats took control of the House, he was aware of his inability to make it a reality. The tension peaked at a meeting in March at the White House when Trump learned that his staff had only got $ 1.6 billion for border fencing in a project bill of generalized expenditure.
Trump told the then president, Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) That the funding was a fraction of what he would need and was threatening not to sign the measure, according to two people who knew of the conversation.
"We gave you what you wanted!" Replied Ryan.
Bowing profusely, Trump said that it was not true and asked Ryan who relayed such a message. Ryan said it was Trump's own advisers who had negotiated the bill, including Marc Short, then director of legislative affairs at the White House, the people said.
At about the same time, councilors issued a statement in which they said the president would sign the bill. This sent Trump in a rage. At one point, he stated that the assistants did not represent him and that the statement was to be canceled, the people said. He was finally convinced by his equally edgy Chief of Staff, John F. Kelly, to sign the measure – though he remained furious with Ryan and his own team.
Shortly after, Trump told his associates that he needed to find a way to get his wall through without Congress.
Although the emergency declaration was the subject of internal controversy, it was also relayed by supporters. The White House acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, was a particularly aggressive defender. He had originally formulated the idea as the director of the Office of Management and Budget and had presented to the President a long memo describing how it worked, people familiar with the topic said.
As is customary in the case of a national emergency, the Office of the Legal Adviser of the Ministry of Justice also examined the declaration of "form and legality" and finally gave its approval, said persons familiar with the subject.
The legal defense of the statement, however, should be difficult. Lawyers for the White House and the Ministry of Justice are considering challenging the legal status of those who are considering suing, and are considering ways to keep the case out of court, which could do not please the position of the administration, said officials.
The administration said Friday morning to the surrogate authorities that they were looking for ways to prevent a lawsuit in California. Such a lawsuit would likely be brought before the Court of Appeals of the 9th Circuit, where the Trump administration has experienced a series of legal defeats.
Mulvaney told reporters Friday that the statement would give Trump access to "about $ 8 billion worth of money that can be used to secure the southern border," and that this dramatic step was necessary because Congress would not act.
Trump signed a spending bill on Friday that averted a second government shutdown following the stalemate between the wall and the border, although the deal included less quarter of the money that Trump had wanted for the wall. For a while, his signature seemed dubious.
Following a briefing Thursday by US Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, and other stakeholders on the details of the final deal, Trump suggested that he would not sign – which would have potentially resulted a new closure.
Trump was confident of staying aboard, but he declared that he would also declare a national emergency, which the Republican leaders had urged him to avoid. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Told the President that he would encourage others to support the emergency declaration so that the President signs, according to people close to the conversation. .
"President Trump's decision to announce an emergency action is the predictable and understandable consequence of the Democrats' decision to pass the party obstruction ahead of the national interest," McConnell said. in a statement. "I urge my fellow Democrats to be serious, to put aside partisanship and to work with the President and our domestic security experts to free up the funds needed to secure our borders at the time of the war." 39, opening of the next round of appropriations. "
In the Rose Garden, Trump explained that it was necessary to declare an emergency because narcotics were flowing across the border. "We are talking about a drug invasion in our country, human traffickers, criminals and gangs of all kinds," he said. But he also seemed to undermine his case on the urgency of the problem.
"I could do the wall longer, I did not need to do it, but I would do it much faster," he said.
An ACLU lawyer responded on Twitter: "Keep talking, Mr. President."