Trump declares border emergency, decries ‘invasion’
President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on the border with Mexico on Friday to access billions of dollars that Congress refused to give him to build a wall there, transforming a highly charged policy dispute into a confrontation over the separation of powers outlined in the Constitution.
Trying to regain momentum after losing a grinding two-month battle with lawmakers over funding the wall, Trump asserted that the flow of drugs, criminals and unauthorized immigrants from Mexico constituted a profound threat to national security that justified unilateral action.
“We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border, and we’re going to do it one way or the other,” he said in a televised statement in the Rose Garden barely 13 hours after Congress passed a spending measure without the money he had sought.
“It’s an invasion,” he added. “We have an invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country.”
But with illegal border crossings already down and critics accusing him of manufacturing a crisis, he may have undercut his own argument that the border situation was so urgent it required emergency action.
“I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster,” he said. “I just want to get it done faster, that’s all.”
The president’s decision incited instant condemnation from Democrats, who called it an unconstitutional abuse of his authority and vowed to try to overturn it with the support of Republicans who also objected to the move.
“This is plainly a power grab by a disappointed president, who has gone outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said in a joint statement.
Trump’s announcement came during a freewheeling, 50-minute appearance in which he pingponged from topic to topic, touching on the economy, China trade talks and his coming summit with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un. The president again suggested that he should win the Nobel Peace Prize, and he reviewed which conservative commentators had been supportive of him, while dismissing Ann Coulter, who has not.
Sounding alternately defensive and aggrieved, Trump explained his failure to secure wall funding during his first two years in office when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress by saying, “I was a little new to the job.” He blamed “certain people, a particular one, for not having pushed this faster,” a clear reference to former Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
Trump’s assertions were replete with misinformation and, when challenged by reporters, he refused to accept statistics produced by his own government that conflicted with his narrative.
“The numbers that you gave are wrong,” he told one reporter. “It’s a fake question.”
On point after point, the president insisted he would be proved correct.
“People said, ‘Trump is crazy,’” he said at one point, discussing his outreach to Kim. “And you know what it ended up being? A very good relationship.”
Trump acknowledged that his declaration of a national emergency would be litigated in the courts and even predicted a rough road for his side.
“Look, I expect to be sued,” he said, launching into a mocking riff about how he anticipated lower court rulings against him. “And we’ll win in the Supreme Court,” he predicted.
Indeed, Public Citizen, an advocacy group, filed suit by the end of the day on behalf of three Texas landowners whose property might be taken for a barrier. California and New York likewise announced that they will sue over what California Gov. Gavin Newsom called the president’s “vanity project,” and a roster of other groups lined up to do the same.