When President Trump declared Friday the state of national emergency on the southern border, he stood in the rose garden and spoke in hyperbole. The United States was dealing with "a drug invasion, a gang invasion, an invasion of people" and a wall was absolutely necessary, he said.
His urgent statement – an attempt to bypass Congress and redirect taxpayer money to fund 230 miles of these barriers along the US-Mexico border – was both urgent and non-urgent.
"I could do the wall over a longer period of time," said Trump then. "I did not need to do that, but I prefer to do it much faster."
The President's free and sometimes contradictory attempt to justify his action would foreshadow an arduous battle: Trump's emergency declaration has already been the subject of several legal challenges and lawmakers are divided on whether this decision is legitimate or constitutes a seizure of power which must be stopped.
In an interview with "Fox News Sunday," White House senior policy advisor Stephen Miller defended Trump's emergency statement, saying that "it would not even be a problem if the president invoked that." law to support a foreign adventure abroad ".
"If the president can not defend this country, he will not be able to fulfill his constitutional oath," Miller said.
Miller said that in September 2020, "hundreds of kilometers" of new barriers will have been built along the border. And he suggested that if Congress passed a resolution disapproving of urgency, Trump would probably veto it.
"It will protect its national emergency declaration, it is guaranteed," Miller said.
Despite this, Democrats have vowed to fight Trump for what they say is an oversight of the executive, echoing a joint statement released Friday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif. ), And the leader of the senatorial minority, Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.).
"Frankly, the president is trying to take the power of the purse out of the legislative branch," said Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) On ABC News's "This Week" show on Sunday. "We are equal branches of government and it is trying to make a kind of overtaking of executive power, and it's really unjustified."
Duckworth said that even if it was agreed with Trump that there was an emergency on the southern border, a wall would not be the most effective way to solve it.
"He wants to allocate more money to people – more agents at the border to place more people at the points of entry. . . we can have these conversations, "said Duckworth, host of" This Week, "Martha Raddatz. "But to take money out of [the Department of Defense] to build this wall which is basically a campaign promise, I believe that these are really wrong priorities and that this is very detrimental for the country. "
For example, Duckworth listed several projects that could be jeopardized by embezzlement for the construction of a border wall – a list that Pelosi's office is gathering, reported The Hill.
Representative Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) Emphasized Trump's own remarks that it was not necessary for him to declare a national emergency.
"He almost dared the court to overturn that decision," said Schiff. "This is going to be a real test for my GOP colleagues in Congress and for their dedication to the institution. If we give up the power of the stock market, there will be little control and no balance. It will no longer be a separation of power, it will be a separation of parties.
Meanwhile, Republicans have been divided on the issue, with some totally supporting Trump and others warning that allowing an emergency declaration would set a precedent for future Democratic presidents who will do the same for many other problems.
"This is an emergency situation. I mean, what are we doing now? The fifth caravan? Said Representative Jim Jordan (Ohio) on Sunday in "This Week", referring to groups of migrants from Central American countries who headed to the US southern border, mainly to ask for asylum. "I would simply like to ask these senators: how many caravans do we need? Six or seven or. . . the one who never stops?
Senator Lindsey O. Graham (RS.C.) said Sunday, in CBS News' "Face the Nation" show, that he supported Trump's decision to "follow this path" and declare a national emergency, even if the embezzlement of military construction funds The border wall involved jeopardizing projects such as the construction of a middle school in Kentucky and the housing of military families.
"I would say it's best that Kentucky college students have a secure border," Graham said. "We will provide them with the school they need. But for now, we are facing a national emergency. "
Representative Will Hurd (R-Tex.), Whose district includes more than 800 km from the US-Mexico border, told "Face the Nation" that he objected to the statement of claim. Trump's urgency, warning that she "was a dangerous precedent. "
"I do not think we need a national emergency declaration. This is not a tool that the president needs to solve this problem, "Hurd said.
Hurd noted that Congress had already made decisions on how to allocate funds to the military. He said he was worried about diverting the money to build the wall.
"Our government was not designed to work in the event of a national emergency," he said. "We are almost in unknown territory."
The national emergency declaration also divided the Americans, triggering at least one demonstration in New York. Various groups promised to hold more events across the country on Presidents' Day.
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said Saturday that he would begin reviewing projects that could be delayed or canceled in order to free up funds for border activities.
On his first foreign visit since being appointed Pentagon chief last month, Shanahan told the joint army staff that the armed forces were doing a great job. "mission analysis" on ways to fight drugs and migrants at the border. "On that basis, we can evaluate what would be appropriate," he said.
Shanahan said the department had been preparing for weeks for a possible emergency declaration.
A defense official, who requested anonymity to discuss internal planning, said the army's analysis included an assessment of where border gates would be most effective given national security.
Shanahan said he had room to maneuver to determine a final figure among the available funds that would be used for border-related activities – $ 3.6 billion from designated military construction funds . He said that the secretaries of service would be involved in the identification of affected projects.
"All this money has been earmarked for different purposes, so it boils down to: what are you going to trade?", He said.
The defense official said it was possible but not clear whether the Pentagon would devote all of its $ 3.6 billion military construction budget to the border.
Shanahan said some projects would not be considered, including military housing.
"We respect the law and use the rules," he said. "We do not respect the rules."
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, said he was working with several other states to sue the White House and that a filing was "imminent".
"We are prepared. We knew something like this could happen, "said Becerra at" This Week. "" And with our sister state partners, we're ready to go. "
When asked if California would have the right to challenge the statement, because Trump appears to be focused on building a wall in Texas, Becerra said, "We are confident that There are at least 8 billion ways to prove harm ", referring to the number of taxpayer dollars that Trump seeks to divert.
"It has become clear that this is not an emergency, not just because no one believes it, but because Donald Trump himself said it was not the case," Becerra said. . "But there is enough evidence to show that it is not the 9/11 crisis that we faced in 2001; This is not the Iranian hostage crisis that we faced in 1979. This is not even the kind of national emergency where we try to act against a foreign enemy or avoid any harm to Americans abroad ".
On Friday, the public rights group Public Citizen filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington to block Trump's statement on behalf of three Texas landowners and an environmental group.
"We just sued Trump for his fake national emergency," the group said. "If Trump gets away with it, it's impossible to say what the next imagined" emergency "will be, who will be targeted and what emergency powers will be claimed."
Citizens for accountability and ethics in Washington, another human rights group on Friday sued the Department of Justice for failing to provide documents, including legal advice and communications, related to the president's decision to declare a national emergency.
"Americans deserve to know the true basis of President Trump's unprecedented decision to enact emergency powers to pay for a border wall," Noah Bookbinder, executive director of the group, said in a statement. "The inadequate response from the Ministry of Justice raises great questions as to whether even the President's own administration believes it has a legal basis to bypass the constitutional power given to Congress by appropriate funds."
On Saturday evening, the Center for Biodiversity, an environmental group, filed another lawsuit in federal court, claiming that the president had not identified any legal authority to take such action, and that the Congress has not enacted emergency legislation, even remotely building a border wall, and therefore the reallocation of funds from the president is illegal. "
The group's complaint also warned that a border fence would prevent wildlife from freely passing through its natural habitat "and could result in the disappearance of jaguars, ocelots and other endangered species in the United States."
The American Civil Liberties Union announced it was preparing a lawsuit early next week, saying Trump could not legally redirect taxpayers' money in an emergency, unless it was for military construction projects supporting the armed forces.
Tony Romm and Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.
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