Speaking to reporters outside the White House before the signing on Friday, Trump said he will declare a national emergency, a move that will allow him to corral funding from other parts of the government to fund the US-Mexico border wall.
“We’re declaring it for virtual invasion purposes,” Trump told reporters. “Drugs, traffickers and gangs.”
The president is also expected to sign a spending bill that will avert a second government shutdown, but will only provide $1.3 billion towards building the wall, a fraction of the $5.6 billion requested by Trump late last year.
“We got so much money, I don’t know what to do with it,” he said of the bill, while stressing that the only exception was the border wall funding due to the Democrats’ position.
While the bill does provide funds for port-of-entry security and drug-detection equipment, it also includes a number of concessions to Democrats. It explicitly prohibits a concrete wall, grants amnesty to illegal immigrants in the US with unaccompanied minors, bans wall construction in several national parks, and provides no funding for hiring more Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
Democrats have vowed to fight Trump’s declaration in court. While Congress could, theoretically, overturn the national emergency order, a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives and Senate would be required, which the Democrats do not have.
“The order is signed. We will have a national emergency, and then we’ll be sued… and we will possibly get a bad ruling, and we’ll end up in the Supreme Court,” Trump said, anticipating the inevitable Democrat response.
Trump will divert funding from several Pentagon projects, as well as a Treasury Department drug forfeiture program to pay for the wall. In total, the president expects to raise $8 billion.
Leading Democrats have blasted Trump’s plans to build the wall through a national emergency. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned Trump that “if the president can declare an emergency on something he has created as an emergency, an illusion that he wants to convey, just think about what a president with different values can present to the American people,” before suggesting that a Democratic president could possibly declare a national emergency to tackle gun violence in future.
Trump dismissed concerns that a Democrat could use the same process. “Not too many people have said that,” he said, adding that national emergency declarations have been “signed many times by past presidents.”
After the signing, Pelosi and House Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said they will oppose the declaration “in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public.”
“The President is not above the law. The Congress cannot let the President shred the Constitution,” she said.
While declaring a national emergency is not a common move by a US president, it is not exceptionally rare. Currently, 31 national emergencies are still ongoing, with one restricting trade with Iran in place since 1979.
For instance, Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, invoked his executive power to declare an emergency 10 times. Trump himself has done it three times so far.