Mere minutes after ABC News published a report claiming that the Trump Administration had considered declaring a national emergency to circumvent Congress and start construction on the rest of President Trump’s border wall, President Trump confirmed as much during a raucous White House press conference on Friday.
After saying that the federal government could use eminent domain to secure the land for the wall, Trump responded to a question about using his emergency powers to build the wall with a definitive “yes.”
“Absolutely, we can call a national emergency. I haven’t done it. I may do it. I may do it. We can call a national emergency and build it very quickly.“
“It’s another way of doing it. If we can do it through a negotiated process, we’re giving that a shot.”
According to the ABC News report, discussions about declaring a national emergency have been happening at “a working level” and that discussions have intensified as Democrats have continued to insist that they won’t approve any funding for a border wall, and Trump has insisted that he has no intention of capitulating. On Friday, Trump rattled anxious furloughed federal workers by saying the shutdown could persist for “months or years”.
WATCH: President Trump says he is considering declaring a national emergency as a potential attempt to circumvent Congress for border wall funding. pic.twitter.com/7CYDuBS2pn
— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 4, 2019
A reporter for CBS News highlighted the section of the US code that would allow Trump to use his emergency powers to build the wall, and noted that the same authority was previously exercised by George W Bush in the wake of 9/11.
This appears to be the section of federal law that would permit the president to use unobligated military construction funds for projects "not otherwise authorized by law" during a war or declared national emergency — https://t.co/yLuFQLpFKy
— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) January 4, 2019
Bush 43 invoked this authority shortly after 9/11. (I'm not sure for what. But I have a few guesses.)
— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) January 4, 2019
Here’s the text of the law:
§2808. Construction authority in the event of a declaration of war or national emergency (a) In the event of a declaration of war or the declaration by the President of a national emergency in accordance with the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) that requires use of the armed forces, the Secretary of Defense, without regard to any other provision of law, may undertake military construction projects, and may authorize the Secretaries of the military departments to undertake military construction projects, not otherwise authorized by law that are necessary to support such use of the armed forces. Such projects may be undertaken only within the total amount of funds that have been appropriated for military construction, including funds appropriated for family housing, that have not been obligated. (b) When a decision is made to undertake military construction projects authorized by this section, the Secretary of Defense shall notify, in an electronic medium pursuant to section 480 of this title, the appropriate committees of Congress of the decision and of the estimated cost of the construction projects, including the cost of any real estate action pertaining to those construction projects. (c) The authority described in subsection (a) shall terminate with respect to any war or national emergency at the end of the war or national emergency.
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The administration will reportedly hold meetings on Friday and over the weekend to discuss “next steps” for getting the wall built, despite Trump acknowledging that he had a “productive” and “very good” meeting with Democratic leaders on Friday.
Still, one of ABC’s sources said using the emergency powers would only be a partial solution.
One administration official described the current executive action under consideration as clearing the way for the construction of roughly 115 miles of new border wall strictly on land owned by DoD, which would make up roughly 5 percent of the more than 2,000-mile border.
“The President has some limited authority to direct the Department of Defense to build portions of the barrier along the southern border,” Tom Bossert, Trump’s former Homeland Security adviser and current ABC News contributor said. “Depending on what approach he takes, every option available to him comes with some structural constraints and will be met with congressional opposition and legal action — even the very rare emergency authority that has garnered debate this week. Unless Congress acts, there is seemingly a significant limit to the amount of wall Department of Defense could build.”
On another note, when asked about what furloughed government employees should do if the shutdown persists, Trump said those workers are “good for the money” and that many of those going without pay want him “to keep going” for the good of the country.
Trump tweeted last month that he could order the military to build the wall if Democrats wouldn’t cave, affirming that the wall would get built one way or another.