President Donald Trump was set Thursday to declare a “national emergency” to help fund hundreds of miles of wall on the southern border to prevent migrants from crossing into the United States illegally from Mexico.
The White House said Trump would also sign a spending bill that would avert a government shutdown, but which only provides $1.375 billion for border barriers or fencing — far from the $5.7 billion Trump wants.
Trump has for months teased the idea of declaring a national emergency, which would free up federal money from elsewhere, citing what the administration calls a “crisis” at the border.
More than 100,000 people were detained in October and November after entering the country illegally.
But trying to build a wall this way would face significant legal challenges.
– Trump does have emergency powers –
The National Emergencies Act allows the president to declare a national emergency, providing a specific reason for it.
That then allows the mobilization of hundreds of dormant emergency powers under other laws. Those can permit the White House to declare martial law, suspend civil liberties, expand the military, seize property and restrict trade, communications and financial transactions.
But the powers are not unlimited, and can be blocked by Congress and the courts. During the Korean War in 1952, President Harry Truman sought to take over US steel factories to keep them producing in the face of a planned national strike by industry workers.
Steel companies took the case to the Supreme Court, which ruled in their favor, saying the president’s emergency powers did not allow him to seize privately owned plants to avert a strike.
– All presidents use the National Emergencies Act –
Every recent president has used the NEA, and more than two dozen states of emergency are currently active, renewed annually.
George W. Bush invoked it after the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks to be able to expand and ready the military beyond what was budgeted, and to undertake secret surveillance and employ interrogation methods on detainees widely denounced as torture.
Barack Obama tapped the NEA to declare an emergency in 2009 over the swine flu threat, giving authorities and hospitals extra powers to act quickly against the outbreak.
Most often, the NEA has been used in actions against other countries.
One NEA emergency in place since 1979 has restricted trade with Iran. Another, dating from 2006, blocks property of people who were deemed to be undermining democracy in Belarus.
– Powers, funds limited –
If Trump declares a national emergency, he could deploy more manpower to the border. But to build a wall, he would still have to find billions of dollars to fund it.
One emergency law permits the president to order “military construction projects” using funds already available in the military budget.
But could the wall be called a “military” project? There are strong restrictions on the US military and its funding being deployed for domestic, non-defense purposes, though emergency laws sometimes permit it.
Moreover, building the wall will require taking control of privately owned land that abuts much of the border, which could force years-long legal battles with landowners.
– Challenge from Congress –
The NEA gives Congress the right to immediately challenge a presidential emergency declaration, and a challenge would likely quickly pass the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives.
“It’s not an emergency,” House Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.
“We will review our options and be prepared to respond appropriately,” she added.
The Republican-controlled Senate would also have to decide whether they agree with the president’s invocation of emergency powers to build a wall.
DOJ employees urged to revolt against Bill Barr for throwing IG report ‘in the trash’ to defend Trump
On MSNBC's "AM Joy," former federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne excoriated Attorney General William Barr for his partisan suppression of the inspector general's conclusions about the FBI's Russia investigation.
"Here's the problem. The inspector general has already found that the — the investigation was not motivated in the way that Bill Barr is saying it is, and he's directly taking all the work of all the people and he's throwing it in the trash," said Alksne. "And he's added this other layer of an investigation and now he's broken all the rules, because one of the rules in an investigation is you don't talk about it in the middle, and he's done that. And it's a very threatening thing to the person who did the initial investigation, and it's also a way of putting his thumb on the scale with the guy who's doing the followup investigation, [U.S. Attorney John] Durham. He was talked into issuing a press release that was completely improper."
GOP ridiculed for hyping Ohio anti-impeachment protest — and only a handful of Trump supporters showed
The official Twitter of account of the Republican National Committee was buried in mockery after hyping up a video of anti-impeachment protesters in Youngstown, Ohio, where it appears only a handful of people showed up.
According to the tweet, "Ohioans are sick and tired of the Democrats’ impeachment charade. It’s time to STOP THE MADNESS!"
However, in the video from WKBN, which can be seen below, few people chose to show up for the cameras.
As one commenter noted with tongue-in-cheek, "Thought Ohio had a few more people than that."
That was the general consensus in the comments.
GOP lawmaker scrambles for excuses after being cornered with McConnell’s promise to rig Trump impeachment
On CNN Saturday, anchor Martin Savidge confronted Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), one of Trump's biggest defenders on cable television, about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's claim that he was "coordinating" the impeachment strategy with the White House.
"Where is the impartiality there?" asked Savidge. "And it has to be a concern because, as you point out, you are an attorney and you would be worried if a member of the jury had already stated how they were going to consider."
"Yeah, we heard those comments yesterday, as everyone did," said Johnson. "You know, I've actually talked about this with some of my Democrat [sic] colleagues, those who are very much in favor of impeachment. I said isn't it a fair description of what he said? The way I heard that, Mitch McConnell is talking about the scheduling of the trial, what length of trial or what would be involved with that, with the White House, which is not unprecedented. That's what happened in the Clinton proceedings as well, they coordinated with the White House on scheduling. I don't think he's talking about the merits of the case. I think he's talking about how long will be allowed for this to go forward so I don't think there's anything inappropriate about that."