US President Donald Trump will use his executive authority to declare a national emergency in order to secure border wall funding, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed in a statement on 14 February. Sputnik discussed this issue with with Dr. Clodagh Harrington, Associate Professor of American Politics, at De Montfort University.
Sputnik: How would a national emergency declaration allow Trump to fund the US-Mexico border wall?
Dr. Clodagh Harrington: There's a piece of legislation going back to 1976, the National Emergencies Act, which Trump could act under; which basically means that, during a time of crisis, the President has special powers, and he can redirect money that would normally be kept for things like the military budget or for disaster-relief, for that kind of things, and utilise it for the emergency that he claims — and in this case, with President Trump, it would be to fund his wall. And the justification then for that would be the border security emergency that he sees.
Sputnik: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said declaring a national emergency to fund the border wall is a "lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency." Could you please explain why this measure could be defined as such?
Dr. Clodagh Harrington: I'm not a constitutional expert, but I think certainly it could be construed as 'constitutionally dubious' in the sense that you call a national emergency when there's serious stuff going on — you know, it would be at a time of war. In the past, they've been called for things like the banking crisis in the 1930s or during the Iranian Revolution in the late 70s — things that are big serious deals, usually internationally, sometimes domestically. But for a state of emergency to be called because of the caravan of migrants coming up through the Mexican southern border, that would be difficult for a lot of people to class — I suppose — as an emergency. So there would be a lot of push-back, not least from the Democrats.
Sputnik: Trump's claim sparked a lot of criticism among both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. Do you think this is the ultimate political blackmail? Or rather why are the Democrats objecting to this? After all, isn't this simply a President delivering on his campaign promises?
Dr. Clodagh Harrington: Yes, it's true. I suppose this is the crux of it, I mean, that they're going to complain because they don't agree with it, and they don't believe that the border situation is as dramatic as he makes out. I think in terms of Trump speaking directly to his very loyal support base… You know, you can look at Republicans like [US Senator] Marco Rubio and [US Senator] Susan Collins, who have quite clearly spoken out against the plans for a state of emergency, and others like them, but if you look at Trump's base — the people who will go to the polls in 2020 and vote for him again — they very much support the whole wall idea. They do buy into the whole idea that there is a state of emergency happening down the border. And Trump doesn't want to lose face. You know, he campaigned very strongly on that wall promise. At first Mexico was paying for it, and that wasn't happening; now America is supposedly paying for it. I think what's just come through in the government funding bill, they've allocated 1.4 billion, which is quite away from the many millions that he was hoping for. So he needs to save face, and I think that's a lot of it. He needs to look like he's delivering, even if the whole 234 miles doesn't get built, so that there could be some wall. I think they're talking about 55 miles of a wall, which isn't what he wanted, but it's still something, and then at least it's photo opportunities: there's ways to make that look like a success, possibly, while it's still not going the whole way, I suppose.
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