On Friday, February 15th President Trump declared a national emergency in order to secure the funds necessary to build a border wall. The move grants the president power to $3.6 billion from military construction projects, $2.5 billion from counternarcotics programs, and $600 million from a Treasury Department asset forfeiture fund.
When all the dust settles, President Trump will have access to around $8 billion, an amount much higher than the $5 billion he claims is necessary to build the wall.
During the president’s 50-minute televised statement, Trump stated his reasoning for enacting this controversial move, “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… We have an invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country.”
Later on in his speech, however, the president made it clear that this move was not a last resort, “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.”
Throughout the entirety of the press conference, President Trump jumped from issue to issue at a rapid clip. Recent trade talks with China, the state of the United States’ economy, and negotiations with North Korea were all discussed in between questions regarding the declaration of the national emergency.
The president also addressed why he waited until now to tackle the issue of a border wall instead of securing its funding in the past two years when Republicans had control of both houses of Congress. “I was a little new to the job.” He also blamed, “certain people, a particular one, for not having pushed this faster.”
This quote was seen by many as a reference to former Wisconsin Congressman and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
To tie in an emotional appeal to the move, Trump invited several relatives of Americans who were murdered by illegal immigrants. Throughout much of the speech, these “angel moms” held up pictures of their deceased loved ones.
One of these mothers, Maureen Maloney, whose son Matthew was killed in a motorcycle accident involving an illegal immigrant, was interviewed following the event.
“Matthew’s death was preventable and should have been prevented. (The illegal immigrant) should have never been here in the first place. If he wasn’t here, it wouldn’t have happened.”
Immediately after President Trump made this decision, legal pundits immediately began discussing its legality and constitutionality. Trump addressed these concerns in his press conference, “Look, I expect to be sued.”
House Democrats scrambled to build a firm defense against the president’s declaration. Almost immediately after Trump’s press conference, the House Judiciary Committee announced its plans to investigate the emergency claim, and House Democrats are crafting legislation that will block the move.
Many commentators have commented on the precedent that Trump’s decision will set for future administrations. However, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney made it clear that the White House is not worried about this issue.
“It actually creates zero precedent,” Mulvaney told reporters. “This is authority given to the president in law already. It’s not as if he just didn’t get what he wanted so he’s waving a magic wand and taking a bunch of money.”