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Trump Administration Setting the Stage to Declare National Emergency to Get Wall Built
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10 Jan 2019 09:48 PM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Donald Trump (Image source: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)


While it was once a mere suggestion, that Donald Trump could declare a national emergency at the United States/Mexico border in order to get the funding for his infamous wall, two people with knowledge have said that the White House is getting everything in line to officially declare it, specifically looking for unused money in the budget of the Army Corps of Engineers.


Not that this would be an easy road to hoe for Trump, even if with the groundwork all laid out, and he's sure to be met with much opposition and will be challenged in court, but it's a way to solve the current situation: fund the wall and possibly get the government reopened. 

Trump has asked the Army Corps how fast contracts could get signed and whether construction could begin within 45 days, according to an official familiar with these discussions.


The target for the funding is a disaster spending bill that Congress passed last year. $13.9 billion has been allocated but not spent, according to a congressional aide. 

Trump and Democrats are at an impasse. With the government's budget due, he wants $5.7 billion to go toward building a wall at the border, the same wall he promised Mexico was going to pay for. Democrats don't want anything to do with the wall. This caused the government to be shut down, and it's nearing the three-week mark.


On Thursday he said he may declare a national emergency if the Democrats don't give in. 

"We can declare a national emergency. We shouldn't have to because this is common sense," he said while visiting the border in Texas.


He had no timetable and prefers to wait and see how it goes with Congress. But this is not forcing the lawmakers to reach for a compromise. Instead, they were readying themselves for his declaration. 

Asked if he felt a national emergency declaration was inevitable, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) replied, "Considering how Democrats are not negotiating, yes."


This has left the Democrats to configure how they will respond to this recent threat. 

Under the National Emergencies Act of 1976, the president has authority to issue an emergency declaration using the emergency powers in 123 statutory provisions.


There is no criteria for what constitutes a "national emergency," as it's left to the president. 58 national emergencies have been declared since 1976. 31 of them are still in effect. Some deal with export control, some economic sanctions, and others human rights abuses. Former President George W. Bush declared a national emergency after 9/11, and it has been extended annually. 

Congress could challenge a national emergency declaration with a new law, but it's unlikely that Trump wouldn't veto that.


It could also be challenged in court, specifically by those who would have benefitted by the funding he'll be using for the wall. What could also prove to be a challenge would be acquiring private property.  

At this point we're in uncharted territory, but that seems to be what the country is used to with this administration.

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