ByJohn Wagner, Josh Dawsey and Damian Paletta
Washington| President Donald Trump on Friday declareda national emergencyin a move designed to circumvent Congress and build additional barriers at the southern border, where he said the United States faces “an invasion of our country”.
Trump is seeking to secure about $US6.5 billion ($9.1 billion) more in funding than Congress approved in a bill passed Thursday to avert another partial government shutdown.
In a Rose Garden news conference, Trump did not mention of signing the bill but his acting chief of staff told reporters he intends to do so.
“I’m going to be signing a national emergency,” Trump said in the White House Rose Garden. “We’re talking about an invasion of our country with drugs, with human traffickers, with all types of criminals and gangs.”
Many of Trump’s Republican allies have called a national emergencyill-advised, and Democrats immediately called the move unconstitutional and vowed to fight it legislatively or in court. The declaration is expected to face an array of other legal challenges.
Friday’s announcement follows passage of a 1169-page spending bill that provides $US1.375 billion for 55 miles (88.5 km) of new fences along the border in Texas, far short of the $US5.7 billion Trump had sought for 234 miles of steel walls.
In a statement issued as Trump spoke, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called Trump’s emergency declaration “unlawful”.
“The President’s actions clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution,” the statement said. “The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public, using every remedy available.”
“The President is not above the law,” the statement said. “The Congress cannot let the President shred the Constitution.”
Trump acknowledged in his remarks that his declaration of a national emergency would face court challenges and that he could lose in lower courts.
“Hopefully we’ll get a fair shake” in the Supreme Court, Trump said. “We’re declaring it for virtual invasion purposes.”
He later added: “Sadly, we’ll be sued, and sadly, we’ll go through a process.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Trump’s hand was forced on declaring a national emergency by congressional Democrats.
“President Trump’s decision to announce emergency action is the predictable and understandable consequence of Democrats’ decision to put partisan obstruction ahead of the national interest,” McConnell said in a statement. “I urge my Democratic colleagues to quickly get serious, put partisanship aside, and work with the president and our homeland security experts to provide the funding needed to secure our borders as we begin the next round of appropriations.”
Trump wrapped up his nearly 50-minute news conference without saying he would sign the spending bill. But acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, speaking to reporters earlier, said Trump intends to sign the spending bill on Friday or possibly Saturday.
Funding for nine Cabinet departments and dozens of other agencies expires at midnight Friday.
Mulvaney also said the president declared the national emergency because of inaction by Congress.
“They are simply incapable of providing the amount of money necessary in the president’s eyes to address the current situation at the border,” Mulvaney said.
California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said that his state will take Trump to court to block his emergency declaration.
“This ’emergency’ is a national disgrace, and the blame lays solely at the feet of the President,” Newsom said in a statement.
The governor took issue with Trump’s plans to divert drug diversion funding to building barriers at the border.
“He plans to shut down and divert funds used by California law enforcement that run counter-narcotics operations and fight drug cartels to build his wall,” Newsom said. “Our message back to the White House is simple and clear: California will see you in court.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, said in a statement that the president had created a “constitutional crisis”.
“This action will harm Americans across the country by diverting funds necessary to handle real emergencies and real disasters to advance the President’s personal agenda,” the statement said. “We will not stand for this abuse of power and will fight back with every legal tool at our disposal.”