President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency to access billions of dollars to construct a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border after Congress denied his requests for funding. The declaration has ignited a dispute about separation of powers, and the president’s reasoning is likely to face legal challenges.
“I could do the wall over a longer period of time,” he told NBC’s Peter Alexander when asked about his prior statements on the merits of executive orders, which he had long accused former President Barack Obama of using to circumvent the decisions of Congress. “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.”
"I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn't need to do this, but I'd rather do it much faster," President Trump to @PeterAlexander on national emergency declaration to secure funding for border wall. https://t.co/bmuewGdv83 pic.twitter.com/8VwyqyZy7H
— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) February 15, 2019
Many took the president’s statement as further evidence that he is seeking to bypass Congress to fulfill a campaign promise he made to his base.
Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) called the president’s “nonsense” and “plainly unconstitutional.”
Trump is declaring a national emergency to bypass Congress, to build a wall we don’t need, to address a crisis that doesn’t exist, by claiming an authority he doesn’t have.
If that sounds like nonsense, it’s because it is. It’s also plainly unconstitutional.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) February 14, 2019
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the declaration is “a desperate attempt to distract from the fact” that the president “broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall.”
Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that @realDonaldTrump broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) February 14, 2019
Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) pointed out that the law only allows the use of a national emergency when there’s a declaration of war or when there’s an emergency “requiring the use of armed forces,” neither of which apply to the current state of affairs.
“The American people will see you in court,” he said.
Law only allows the use of a #NationalEmergency in two scenarios:
1. Declaration of war
2. Emergency requiring the use of armed forces
Not because you failed at negotiating & Mexico won't pay for your racist wall.
The American people will see you in court, @realDonaldTrump.
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) February 14, 2019
Senate Minority Leader also highlighted the president’s admission that he “didn’t need to do this,” commenting: “Mr. President, how can this possibly be a national emergency if you’re saying you didn’t need to do it?”
“I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather to do it much faster.” —President @realDonaldTrump
Mr. President, how can this possibly be an national emergency if you’re saying you don’t need to do it?
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) February 15, 2019
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said the same, accusing the president of “faking a crisis.”
“I didn’t need to do this” is admitting this isn’t an emergency at all.
“I didn’t need to do this” means he’s faking a crisis. https://t.co/TVqp0z4EHI
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 15, 2019
Supreme Court lawyer and law professor Neal Katyal said the president’s quote “is going right in the lawsuit.”
Trump just said; “I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster.”
Whatever a national emergency may be, that’s not it.
That quote is going right in the lawsuit. https://t.co/FzwS4xIaMw
— Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) February 15, 2019
If you were to ask the president, however, you’d find he’s rather unfazed by these criticisms. Speaking at the news conference, he outlined what would happen next:
“We will have a national emergency. And we will then be sued… And we will possibly get a bad ruling. And then we will get another bad ruling. And then we will end up in the Supreme Court.”
That moment Trump went on about what might happen next:
"We will have a national emergency. And we will then be sued… And we will possibly get a bad ruling. And then we will get another bad ruling. And then we will end up in the Supreme Court." pic.twitter.com/W26NdYqkR6
— POLITICO (@politico) February 15, 2019
The declaration of a national emergency is the culmination of a long fight over funding for the president’s pet project. This resulted in a government shutdown that kicked off in December 2018 after he declined to sign a stopgap funding bill because he disagreed with Congress’s decision not to provide the requested funding for his proposed border wall. As the shutdown wore on, he insisted that it was simply a ploy by Democrats to cost him re-election.