'Dangerous.' 'Abuse.' 'Lawless': Bipartisan attack on Trump national emergency declaration

Image: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Holds Her Weekly News Conference O
U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 14, 2019 in Washington. Copyright Alex Wong Getty Images
Copyright Alex Wong Getty Images
By Dartunorro Clark with NBC News Politics
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The White House said the president was considering the step "to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border."


Lawmakers in both parties sharply criticized President Donald Trump on Thursday for planning to declare a national emergency to build his long-promised border wall.

"Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that President Trump broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a joint statement.

"It is yet another demonstration of President Trump's naked contempt for the rule of law. This is not an emergency, and the president's fear-mongering doesn't make it one," they added.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, also advised against such a move by the president.

"I think it's a dangerous step," Cornyn said.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump would sign a congressional deal to avoid a shutdown Friday but will also declare a national emergency "to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border."

A potential emergency declaration, which Trump could try to use to obtain existing government funds from agencies and departments to build the wall without congressional approval, set off a chorus of criticism from Democrats and Republicans.

"It would be a gross abuse of power — and likely illegal — for President Trump to go around Congress to fund his wall. Inventing an unnecessary national emergency would be a power grab that would likely be blocked by the courts," Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said in a tweet.

Democrats highlighted other pressing problems for which they said a national emergency would be appropriate and accused Trump of manufacturing a crisis at the border to uphold a campaign promise to build a wall on the southern border.

"Gun violence is a national emergency. Climate Change is a national emergency. Income inequality is a national emergency. Access to healthcare is a national emergency. Building a wall on the southern border is not," Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., tweeted on Thursday.

Rep. Mike Levin, D-Calif., said in a statement he would "support every effort to challenge his declaration in court."

"We cannot allow the president to get away with a national emergency declaration, which is a clear abuse of power and likely unconstitutional," he said.

Sen. Brian Schatz‏, D-Hawaii,said he could only image the blowback of President Barack Obama had tried the same thing.

"The inability to negotiate with a coequal branch is not an emergency. A failure to secure money is just not just the same as a natural disaster or terrorism event. And I look forward to a big bipartisan vote rejecting this nonsense. Can you imagine the screaming (if) Obama did this?" he asked.

A number of Republicans also said they would oppose any emergency declaration, arguing that it sets a precedent for a future Democratic administration and amounts to presidential overreach.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., criticized the administration for the idea of issuing a national declaration, as well as Congress voting on a voluminous bill with little time for consideration.

"I, too, want stronger border security, including a wall in some areas. But how we do things matters. Over 1,000 pages dropped in the middle of the night and extraconstitutional executive actions are wrong, no matter which party does them," Paul said in a tweet.

"I'm disappointed with both the massive, bloated, secretive bill that just passed and with the president's intention to declare an emergency to build a wall," he added.

Other Republican lawmakers echoed Paul's concerns, worried that such a move by Trump would embolden a future Democratic president to tackle controversial issues such as gun violence.


"I do not support this decision because declaring a national emergency sets a very dangerous precedent that undermines our constitutional separation of powers. By circumventing Congress and Article I of the Constitution, President Trump is opening the door for any future president to act alone without Congressional approval," Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wa., said in a statement.

"If elected president, how would Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders use this precedent for a national disaster declaration to force the Green New Deal on the American people?"

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, concluded, "Whether the President has the authority or not, it sets a dangerous precedent and places America on a path that we will regret."

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