WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump declared a national emergency Friday, a move that will let him pour roughly $8 billion into construction of a wall along the southern border.
In a lengthy speech from the Rose Garden at the White House this morning, Trump repeated his claims that he needed to take unilateral steps in building his long-promised wall to stop an “invasion” on the southern border.
“We’re going to be signing today, and registering, a national emergency,” Trump said Friday. “And it’s a great thing to do. Because we have an invasion of drugs, invasion of gangs, invasion of people, and it’s unacceptable.”
He said he is making the move to speed up wall construction efforts after Congress on Thursday approved $1.375 billion for limited barriers along the southern border. That amount fell well short of the $5.7 billion he had requested from Congress, a shortfall Trump said spurred him to declare an emergency.
“The primary fight was on the wall, everything else we have so much, as I said, I don’t know what to do with it, we have so much money,” Trump said. “But on the wall, they skimped. So I was successful in that sense, but I want to do it 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.”
Trump signed the spending package on Friday afternoon, ensuring the government will not shut down for the second time in as many months.
In his speech earlier, Trump faulted House leadership for not pushing harder for wall funding during the two years of Republican control at the beginning of his administration.
Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters Friday the money will come from several different funding reserves. The largest deposit will be $3.6 billion pulled from a military construction fund, with roughly $2.5 billion more coming out of Department of Defense counter-drug programs and an additional $600 million from a treasury forfeiture fund.
A senior administration official said the $3.6 billion transfer from the military construction fund is the only one that cannot be accessed by Trump without declaring a national emergency.
Combined with the $1.375 billion from a government-funding bill Congress passed on Thursday, that will give the administration about $8 billion for building Trump’s long-promised border wall. A senior administration official said the administration plans to build 234 miles of wall using the money, though where the wall will go up and how far it stretches depend on specific authorities in law. The funding bill Congress passed Thursday allows for 55 miles of construction in specific areas along the border.
Hitting similar points as Trump, Mulvaney said before the announcement Friday that the emergency declaration comes in response to Congress’ refusal to meet Trump’s border-wall demand. The standoff between Trump and Congress on the subject led to a month-long government shutdown that stretched from December into January.
“We’ve been through a shutdown, we’ve now been through three weeks of allowing Congress to work their will and they’re simply incapable of proving the amount of money necessary, in the president’s eyes, to address the current situation at the border,” Mulvaney said.
The emergency is almost certain to bring an immediate legal challenge from advocacy groups, states and perhaps even the House of Representatives.
Within hours of Trump’s proclamation, the county of El Paso, Texas, and the Border Network for Human Rights announced that they would sue with help from attorneys at Protect Democracy and the Niskanen Center, a nonpartisan think tank. The ACLU issued a similar threat.
Trump on Friday acknowledged the likelihood of a prolonged court fight, but pointed to the administration’s success in a Supreme Court challenge to his so-called travel ban as a reason to be confident in the final result.
“We will have a national emergency, and we will then be sued, and they will sue us in the Ninth Circuit, even though it shouldn’t be there, and we will possibly get a bad ruling, and then we’ll get another bad ruling, and then we’ll end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we’ll get a fair shake and we’ll win at the Supreme Court, just like the ban,” Trump said.
Under the National Emergencies Act, Congress can block a presidential emergency by passing a resolution of disapproval. Because Trump would be highly likely to veto the measure, it would effectively need to pass both houses of Congress with a veto-proof majority.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called Trump’s action “unlawful” Friday and promised to take any action possible to stop it from taking effect. They called on Republicans to join them.
“The president’s actions clearly violate the Congress’ exclusive power of the purse, which our founders enshrined in the Constitution,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement Friday. “The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the courts and in the public, using every remedy available.”