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Donald Trump declares national emergency citing ‘invasions’ on the border


US president Donald Trump formally declared a national emergency on Friday to fund his long-promised border wall, in addition to the money allocated for it in a compromise spending bill that he will sign into law later in the day to avert another shutdown of the federal government.

“We’re going to be signing, today, and registering a national emergency and it’s a great thing to do,” the president said in a long and rambling address from the White House, adding, the purpose was to stop the “invasion” of drugs and criminals through the border on the south, along Mexico.

He dismissed criticism that the emergency declaration was an unprecedented move but added that he could anticipate opposition and legal challenges. And this quote from him was widely cited by experts and critics as something that could be used in the lawsuits: “I didn’t need to do this.”

The 1,169-page spending bill, which was passed by congress on Thursday, allocated $1.375 billion for the wall, much less than the $5.7 billion Trump had sought. The administration plans to raise about $6.5 billion more through the emergency declaration and other executive action. The target is about $8 billion in all.

Bulk of the additional money will be “reprogrammed” allocations for military constructions and the Pentagon’s counter-narcotics schemes — $3.6 billion and $2.5 billion respectively — and the rest, about $600 million, from asset forfeitures and seizures by the US treasury, White House officials said.

Trump will sign the compromise spending bill later in the day, in time to avert another shutdown, that would have kicked in past midnight.

A national emergency has been declared 58 times before to deal with a variety of issues including the prevention of uncut diamonds from Sierra Leone. And also to raise funds on two occasions, a senior administration official told reported during a briefing to preview the president’s announcements.

It’s neither unprecedented not does it set a precedence, the official insisted, addressing concerns raised by both Democrats and Republicans. “It actually creates zero precedent,” Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, told reporters. “This is authority given to the president in law already. It’s not as if he didn’t get what he wanted and waved a magic wand to get some money.”

Congressional Democrats, who had already announced their opposition to the emergency declaration calling it a ‘lawless act”, plan to challenge it in the congress and in courts. “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,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top Democratic senator Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement, following the president’s speech.

They added: “The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public, using every remedy available.”

They went on to urge Republicans to join them to oppose the declaration, hoping, perhaps, to feed on their reservation about an emergency declaration. Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the senate, had privately counseled the president against it and had threatened to pass a legislation to overturn it. But he has since changed his mind.

Announcing the spending deal and the president’s intention to invoke an emergency, McConnell said on the floor of the senate Thursday that “I’ve indicated to him that I am going to support the national emergency declaration.”