Why did Trump have to declare a National Emergency?

“Trump Declares National Emergency to Build Border Wall” (nytimes):

President Trump declared a national emergency at the border on Friday to access billions of dollars to build a border wall

Suppose that he wants to spend $4.4 billion per year on wall construction. That’s 1/1000th of the $4.4 trillion federal budget. It is 0.6 percent of the ordinary annual budget for the military of which Mr. Trump is Commander in Chief.

What would have stopped President Trump from directing military personnel to go down to the border area and install some fences, using the budget that he already has available? Why must it be an emergency? If the Commander in Chief decided that the military should build some new fences around various bases, that wouldn’t require declaring a national emergency, would it? How is this different?

Based on my reading of The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border, all that Trump would need to do to shake loose significant money is have the Border Patrol stop flying Eurocopters all day every day (a lot of this seems to be evacuation of the dehydrated, something that could be accomplished for $100/hour instead of $10,000/hour if done with SUVs).

18 thoughts on “Why did Trump have to declare a National Emergency?

  1. Military cannot be activated in own country for cevilian projects unless there is some sort of emergency?

  2. Where is the headline? We all know he isnt going to lift a finger unless it gets people talking about him.

  3. The President does not have the authority to tell the military to do what you suggest. Congress controls what money can be spent and for what. They and state Governors have to agree that it a National Emergency to allow the President and the military to spend money they DID NOT AUTHORIZE or Federalize troops and deploy them. See here from Google and Wikipedia…..

    Why Governors Should Veto National Guard Deployments More Often. … So long as the president does not federalize National Guard troops for the purposes of a “national emergency,” a state governor, who is the Commander in Chief of the state’s National Guard troops, can refuse to send personnel as requested.Apr 17, 2018

    When National Guard units are not under federal control, the governor is the commander-in-chief of the units of his or her respective state or territory (such as Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands). … The federal Posse Comitatus Act (PCA) does not apply under state active duty status or Title 32 status.

  4. From USA Today in 2014:
    “In his six years in office, President Obama has declared nine emergencies, allowed one to expire and extended 22 emergencies enacted by his predecessors.
    Since 1976, when Congress passed the National Emergencies Act, presidents have declared at least 53 states of emergency — not counting disaster declarations for events such as tornadoes and floods, according to a USA TODAY review of presidential documents. Most of those emergencies remain in effect.
    Even as Congress has delegated emergency powers to the president, it has provided almost no oversight. The 1976 law requires each house of Congress to meet within six months of an emergency to vote it up or down. That’s never happened.
    Last week, Obama renewed a state of national emergency declared in 1995 to deal with Colombia drug trafficking, saying drug lords ‘continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States and to cause an extreme level of violence, corruption and harm in the United States and abroad.'”

  5. The simple and simplistic answer is that he promised to do it and he’s going to keep trying to do it. Either that or you have to care about Ann Coulter basically calling him a big *uss*. As a matter of law he may lose the argument, but he said he would try. In fact he promised it. The other day you were talking about AOC and whether or not she deserved respect for being true to her supporters and I think the same thing goes with him.

    What’s really interesting to me is that Nancy Pelosi warned against him doing it by comparing it to a potential future National Emergency Gun Control declaration, which I think would also be terribly advised but it shows what’s going on in the People’s Mind. He wants to secure the border with an Emergency, she wants to take people’s guns who already live here. And there you go.

  6. A lot of people (apparently including you) do not really understand the constitution. It clearly says the president is the Commander but Congress must agree with his commands and also must approve the money that will be spent and for what activities. So in most ways Congress tells the military what to do and how much to spend. What do you think all those Senate and House committees do all day? It is a team effort. So the military runs under a classic matrix management system. Even the Generals sort of report to Congress. Four stars are appointed for three year terms by the President but must be approved by Congress. And Congress (not the president) controls how the military works and how promotions and so forth are handled.


  7. Congress does not have to agree with the President’s decisions – the Constitution does. Yes, Congress has influence over what laws the President is supposed to be enforcing. Congress has given certain specified authorities to the President. This President, among many others, is acting upon them. As to why Trump declared an emergency, it seems to be to allow more funding than without the declaration. This tweet has a summary: https://twitter.com/conncarroll/status/1096507435257348096

  8. Because as much as Trump thinks it, we do not live under a monarchy. And besides, he also promised that Mexico would pay for it.

  9. There seems to be law that presidential authority to counter drug smuggling and international crime (coyotes) does not actually require the declaration of an emergency, there is no way the president does not know this, it was published in Breitbart after all! Thus, the likely conclusion is that the declaration of an emergency is to get democrats to demonstrate their preference for keeping it easy for illegal aliens to cross the southern border, i.e. by challenging the emergency declaration in court and by congressional resolution. This is all theater for the 2020 election, if Trump really cared about enforcing the law, he would have used data mining techniques to identify as many illegal aliens as possible, and streamlined the courts to maximize deportations from the interior, and also fine employers to the maximum extent possible.


    If I understand this right, there are conditions that allow the construction of barriers by DOD without declaring an emergency:

    “The report cited two sections of Title 10 of the U.S. Code: Section 2803 and Section 284, which are are separate and distinct from Section 2808, the section of Title 10 that grants presidential authority under the National Emergencies Act.

    Section 2803, “provides that the Secretary of Defense ‘may carry out a military construction project not otherwise authorized by law’ upon determining that (1) ‘the project is vital to the national security or to the protection of health, safety, or the quality of the environment,’ and (2) ‘the requirement for the project is so urgent that’ deferring the project ‘would be inconsistent with national security or the protection of health, safety, or environmental quality.’ ”

    Section 284, “provides that the Secretary of Defense ‘may provide support for the counterdrug activities or activities to counter transnational organized crime’ of any law enforcement agency, including through the ‘[c]onstruction of roads and fences and installation of lighting to block drug smuggling corridors across international boundaries of the United States.’”

  10. After doing some productive work I decided to come back and give another not-very-good answer. It’s easy to be of more than one mind and give not-very-good answers where this President is concerned. I didn’t have a chance to read his Rose Garden address until last night, but he answers most of your questions.

    The bottom line is that he knew declaring the Emergency would touch off a gigantic legal battle that will be fought all the way to the Supreme Court. Congress is out of the picture now, this is an Executive Branch declaration the validity and constitutionality of which will be decided by the Justices. I’m sure of that part because he declared it in no uncertain terms, in the clearest part of his statement (caps mine for emphasis):


    “So the order is signed, and I’ll sign the final papers as soon as I get into the Oval Office, and WE WILL have a national emergency, and WE WILL then be sued, and THEY WILL sue us in the Ninth Circuit, even though it shouldn’t be there, and WE WILL possibly get a bad ruling and then WE WILL get another bad ruling, and then WE WILL end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully WE WILL get a fair shake and win in the Supreme Court, just like the ban—they sued us in the Ninth Circuit, and we lost, and then we lost in the appellate division, and then we went to the Supreme Court and we won.”

    Whew. So he’s pretty sure about where it’s going: It’s going to court, and it’s going to be a long slog. Whether he could have done it another way by shaking the money loose from some other tree…is moot. Nobody “stepped up” in time to avoid this. He doesn’t want “fences” and he never uses the word. He wants a wall, and he wants $8 billion dollars and a lot more sweeping authority than he currently has, or thinks he has. The Supreme Court is going to decide. He also says a lot of other things, and it’s frankly the most rambling, chaotic and disconcerting example of Presidential rhetoric I’ve ever encountered. It ends like this:

    “The probably easiest one to win is on declaring a national emergency, because we are declaring it for virtual invasion purposes—drugs, traffickers, and gangs. And one of the things, just to finish, we have removed thousands of MS-13 gang monsters, thousands. They are out of this country. We take them out by the thousands. And they are monsters. Okay. Do you have any questions?”

    • I agree. I saw this a number of years ago and I’ve always wondered why we’re not doing more with remote sensing. The areas in question are so vast and inhospitable it always seemed appealing to try things like this. It has potential, and we should get an RFP, get this out of the lab and start testing it. Even with questions I have (damage and maintenance costs? sabotage? false positives?) it’s frustrating to think we’ve let this wither on the vine.

    • Federico-
      You just explained why the wall is only a deterrent. People who say that walls work often point to Israel, but those walls only work as long as they are patrolled by the IDF.
      Even more dramatically, the former USSR never had a border wall along its (world’s longest) land border, yet the border crossings were minimal: the Soviet BP was a well-equipped branch of the military who wouldn’t hesitate to use live ammo (and everything else including attack helicopters) to prevent unauthorized border crossings in either direction (haha).

  11. He declared national emergency because he promised a wall and he wants to deliver on that promise. Yes, there are alternative ways to a wall, but having a physical wall means, again, sticking to his campaign promise and a physical wall gives a visual symbol of his promise.

    The democrats are blocking the president and are using all sort of constitutional crises techniques to show how wrong and out of touch the president is but yet if you look back in history, declaring national emergency was used for far lease serious issues and costing far more.

    This is all about pushing back on the president just like the republican pushed back on Obama only now they are dealing with a president who is not a politician to give you that “smooth” or “I feel your pain” talk — Trump is in your face business man and he brings that out in the public.

    Finally, the money being asked for the wall is $5 billion or so. Even if it ends up costing $50 billion, that’s a fraction of the US budget for 2019 which is $4.4 trillion. Sure, $5 or $50 billion can be used more wisely somewhere else, but if so, than we surely can look at the $4.4 trillion budget and find at lease $50 billion that can be cut or used more wisely too, no?

    Bottom line, republican gave Obama a hard time, democrats are doing the same to Trump. In my opinion, democrats have been worse at it but that’s because Trump is giving them that opportunity for not being a “smooth” talker.

  12. No Obama Supreme Court nominee so no Trump wall. And we save a little money to offset his ridiculous tax cut that we cannot afford….. I actually think the Democrats should have refused to let his Supreme court appointees get approved but that is another conversation…..

  13. Maybe Congress needs to start voting down some national emergencies. When there’s a flood or hurricane, I understand. But allowing a President to continue to spend money from 1995 to present on a problem that will never be solved without a radical solution, narcotics trafficking, is just plain stupid. Legalize the drugs or send addicts to a country where drugs are legal. Most would gladly give up citizenship to be free of law enforcement.

  14. Trump has six years left in office, at most. We won’t see a wall in that time, because court cases, property acquisition, land surveying, site engineering, structural engineering, etc, need to be done before even breaking ground. The emergency declaration won’t change this, so we know it’s not about the wall. We should pay close attention to who pockets the money. We should also worry what false emergencies are in store for the future, if congress doesn’t reclaim their power (they won’t).

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