Ledger-Enquirer - - Front page - BY FRANCO ORDOÑEZ for­[email protected]­

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump vis­its the Texas-Mex­ico bor­der to dra­ma­tize his pitch for a wall to se­cure the bor­der.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in­ten­si­fied threats Thurs­day to in­voke his “emer­gency pow­ers” to build his bor­der wall if Democrats don’t co­op­er­ate, say­ing his lawyers have looked into the mat­ter and “they tell me 100 per­cent” he can.

Crit­ics have de­nounced the idea as abu­sive and un­law­ful, but ex­perts on pres­i­den­tial pow­ers and im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment say that Congress has granted Trump, and pres­i­dents be­fore him, wide lat­i­tude to in­voke emer­gency pow­ers. He also has a sym­pa­thetic Supreme Court that has demon­strated will­ing­ness to back him in the event of a court chal­lenge.

“Congress has left very broad pow­ers in the hands of who­ever is pres­i­dent to de­clare emer­gen­cies for rea­sons vague, imag­ined or real,” said Michael Wald­man, pres­i­dent at the Bren­nan Cen­ter for Jus­tice. “And pres­i­dents have a lot of power when they do that.”

The Bren­nan Cen­ter for Jus­tice has iden­ti­fied 136 statu­tory pow­ers that a pres­i­dent can in­voke just by sign­ing his name.

Trump first raised the prospects of us­ing his emer­gency pow­ers on Fri­day dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in the Rose Gar­den. The new Demo­cratic chair­man of the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, Rep. Adam Smith of Wash­ing­ton, later ap­peared to agree with him, but warned he’d be “wide open to a court chal­lenge.”

“Un­for­tu­nately, the short an­swer is yes,” Smith said dur­ing an in­ter­view on ABC’s “This Week.”

Trump raised the prospect again on his way to McAllen, Texas, Thurs­day, where he’ll con­tinue his cam­paign for a wall across the US-Mex­ico bor­der. He told re­porters that he’s checked with his lawyers if he can use fed­eral funds with­out con­gres­sional ap­proval. They told him yes, he said.

“I have the ab­so­lute right to de­clare a na­tional emer­gency,” Trump said. “I haven’t done it yet. I may do it. If this doesn’t work out, prob­a­bly I will do it. I would al­most say def­i­nitely.”

Trump’s bravado on Thurs­day demon­strated how en­trenched the two sides re­main on the 20th day of the par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down that doesn’t ap­pear to be end­ing soon. But some for­mer Trump of­fi­cials ques­tion whether sub­sti­tut­ing this fight with an­other drag-out court bat­tle over his pres­i­den­tial au­thor­ity is in his best in­ter­ests.

“He’s try­ing to max­i­mize his lever­age. That’s what any good ne­go­tia­tor does,” said one for­mer Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial. “The ques­tion is it a re­ally fea­si­ble so­lu­tion... There will be a law­suit filed 30 min­utes af­ter he signs.”

But Leon Fresco, who de­fended some of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s most con­tro­ver­sial en­force­ment poli­cies as deputy as­sis­tant at­tor­ney gen­eral for the of­fice of im­mi­gra­tion lit­i­ga­tion, said Trump could win a pro­longed court fight. Fresco said he’d likely lose a bat­tle in lower courts, but that a friend­lier Supreme Court could sup­port him.

Even be­fore the Trump-nom­i­nated Jus­tice Brett Ka­vanaugh took the oath, the Supreme Court has demon­strated its will­ing­ness to give Trump wide lee­way on pres­i­den­tial pow­ers.

In a 5-4 rul­ing, the high court up­held Trump’s con­tro­ver­sial travel ban that barred nearly all trav­el­ers from five mainly Mus­lim coun­tries as well as of­fi­cials from North Ko­rea and Venezuela.

And last month, the court nearly al­lowed the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to deny asy­lum to those who il­le­gally cross the U.S.Mex­ico bor­der de­spite lan­guage in the law that states asy­lum ap­pli­ca­tions from peo­ple who had en­tered the coun­try un­law­fully.

“Any alien who is phys­i­cally present in the United States or who ar­rives in the United States (whether or not at a des­ig­nated port of ar­rival and in­clud­ing an alien who is brought to the United States af­ter hav­ing been in­ter­dicted in in­ter­na­tional or United States waters), ir­re­spec­tive of such alien’s sta­tus,” the statute says.

If not for Chief Jus­tice John G. Roberts Jr., a con­ser­va­tive nom­i­nated by Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, Trump would have even more lee­way.

Fresco said the asy­lum statute is clear, but Roberts is less likely to rule against Trump on the wall.

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