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General News Details

Trump Declaration Faces Court Fight

Trump Declaration Faces Court Fight    02/16 10:41

   President Donald Trump declared a national emergency along the southern 
border and predicted his administration would end up defending it all the way 
to the Supreme Court.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Let the lawsuits begin.

   President Donald Trump declared a national emergency along the southern 
border and predicted his administration would end up defending it all the way 
to the Supreme Court.

   That might have been the only thing Trump said Friday that produced 
near-universal agreement.

   The American Civil Liberties Union announced its intention to sue less than 
an hour after the White House released the text of Trump's declaration that the 
"current situation at the southern border presents a border security and 
humanitarian crisis that threatens core national security interests and 
constitutes a national emergency."

   Nonprofit watchdog group Public Citizen filed suit later, urging the U.S. 
District Court for the District of Columbia to "bar Trump and the U.S. 
Department of Defense from using the declaration and funds appropriated for 
other purposes to build a border wall."

   House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and several Democratic state attorneys general 
already have said they might go to court.

   The coming legal fight seems likely to hinge on two main issues: Can the 
president declare a national emergency to build a border wall in the face of 
Congress' refusal to give him all the money he wanted and, under the federal 
law Trump invoked in his declaration, can the Defense Department take money 
from some congressionally approved military construction projects to pay for 
wall construction?

   The Pentagon has so far not said which projects might be affected.

   But after weeks of publicly ruminating whether to act, Trump's signature on 
the declaration set in motion a quick march to the courthouse.

   Trump relied on the National Emergencies Act of 1976, which Congress adopted 
as a way to put some limits on presidential use of national emergencies. The 
act requires a president to notify Congress publicly of the national emergency 
and to report every six months. The law also says the president must renew the 
emergency every year, simply by notifying Congress. The House and Senate also 
can revoke a declaration by majority vote, though it would take a two-thirds 
vote by each house to override an expected presidential veto.

   Beyond that, though, the law doesn't say what constitutes a national 
emergency or impose any other limits on the president.

   The broad grant of discretion to the president could make it hard to 
persuade courts to rule that Trump exceeded his authority in declaring a border 
emergency. "He's the one who gets to make the call. We can't second-guess it," 
said John Eastman, a professor of constitutional law at the Chapman University 
School of Law.

   Courts often are reluctant to look beyond the justifications the president 
included in his proclamation, Ohio State University law professor Peter Shane 
said on a call organized by the liberal American Constitution Society.

   But other legal experts said the facts are powerfully arrayed against the 
president. They include government statistics showing a decades-long decline in 
illegal border crossings as well as Trump's rejection of a deal last year that 
would have provided more than the nearly $1.4 billion he got for border 
security in the budget agreement he signed Thursday. Opponents of the 
declaration also are certain to use Trump's own words at his Rose Garden news 
conference Friday to argue that there is no emergency on the border.

   "I could do the wall over a longer period of time," Trump said. "I didn't 
need to do this, but I'd rather do it much faster."

   Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan said Congress made a conscious 
choice not to give Trump what he wanted. "A prerequisite for declaring an 
emergency is that the situation requires immediate action and Congress does not 
have an opportunity to act," Amash said on Twitter.

   ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said Trump's remarks are an admission 
that there is no national emergency. "He just grew impatient and frustrated 
with Congress," Romero said in a statement that also said the rights group 
would file a lawsuit next week.

   Trying to turn the president's words against him failed in the challenge to 
Trump's ban on travel to the United States by citizens of several mostly Muslim 
countries. The ban's opponents argued that Trump's comments as a candidate and 
as president showed the ban was motivated by anti-Muslim bias, not concern 
about national security. Lower courts struck down the ban, but the Supreme 
Court upheld it in a 5-4 vote last year.

   Trump said he expected to lose in lower courts that he claims have been 
unfair to him, particularly if lawsuits are filed in California. "Hopefully, 
we'll get a fair shake and we'll win in the Supreme Court, just like the ban," 
he said.

   Beyond the challenge to Trump's authority to declare an emergency, lawsuits 
also are expected to focus on the military construction project law that allows 
the re-allocation of money in a national emergency.

   Eastman said he doubts that the Supreme Court would try to interfere with 
Trump's decision to send the military to the border and then authorize the use 
of money from other Defense Department construction projects to build miles of 
a border wall. "The president is authorized to make those judgments, not some 
judge in San Francisco," Eastman said.

   But the ACLU's suit will argue that Congress allowed for flexibility in 
using money it appropriated for projects needed to support the emergency use of 
the military forces, like overseas military airfields in wartime.

   Several legal experts said claims that the building of the wall is not the 
kind of project contemplated in the military construction law could be more 
difficult to rebut because border security is more like a law enforcement issue 
than a military emergency.

   But Shane, the Ohio State professor, said, "It's hard to know how exactly 
this is going to unfold politically or judicially."


(KA)

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