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National Emergency

Congress Overturns Trump National Emergency Declaration

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Washington (CNN) The Senate delivered a high-profile rebuke to President Donald Trump over his signature agenda issue Thursday when 12 Republicans joined Democrats to overturn the President’s national emergency border declaration.

The vote was 59-41, an overwhelming vote against the President’s executive action.

Lawmakers don’t have enough votes, however, to override a certain veto from the President, but passage of the resolution in the Senate after it passed the House last month is nevertheless an embarrassing blow to Trump delivered by his own party over the President’s top campaign pledge of a wall at the US-Mexico border.

The setback for the President also comes on the heels of another high-profile break with his administration after the Senate voted just one day earlier to curtail US military support for a Saudi-led war in Yemen, which has created a humanitarian crisis in that country.

Senate Republicans have struggled for weeks over how to vote on the resolution to overturn the national emergency.

The vote forced many to choose between loyalty to a President unafraid to attack members of his party who defy him and an emergency declaration that conservative critics describe as executive overreach and warn could set a precedent used by Democratic presidents to declare emergencies over liberal priorities such as action on climate change.

“Declaring a national emergency to access different funds sets a dangerous new precedent,” GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio warned in remarks on the Senate floor ahead of the vote. “It opens the door for future presidents to implement just about any policy they want.”

The senator went on to say, “a future President could seize industries … a future President may well say that climate change is a national emergency and use emergency authorities to implement the Green New Deal,” referencing a sweeping progressive policy proposal to tackle global warming.

Portman announced during his remarks that he would support the resolution, but made a point to say — as have many other Republicans — that he believes “President Trump is right about the crisis at the border.”

Republicans had to take a tough vote on the border declaration after House Democrats pushed for a resolution to terminate the national emergency that the President announced last month in an effort to unlock money for wall construction at the southern border.

The President declared an emergency when it became clear that Congress would not meet his demand for more than $5 billion in border wall funding. The resolution is privileged, which means that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could not block it from coming to the floor for a vote.

Enough Republican senators had already stated their support for the resolution ahead of Thursday’s vote to guarantee it would pass. But the President continued to publicly pressure Republicans to vote against the resolution in the hours leading up to the vote, framing the vote as a choice between supporting border security or siding with liberal Democrats on immigration.

A number of GOP senators announced ahead of the vote on Thursday that they would vote in favor of the resolution, including Mitt Romney, Lamar Alexander and Pat Toomey.

Prior to the day of the vote, GOP Senators Rand Paul, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Thom Tillis had said they planned to vote for the resolution.

In an apparent last-minute reversal, however, Tillis announced just ahead of the vote on Thursday that he would vote against the resolution, despite previously saying he would vote in favor in a Washington Post op-ed.

“Today, I come to the floor to say that I do not intend to vote for the resolution of disapproval,” the senator said, adding “The White House has been very gracious and I should say very patient given my initial position in working with us.”

This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.

National Emergency

Federal Court Hears 2 Cases Against Trump’s Border Wall

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Arguments have concluded in a federal courtroom in California where billions of dollars that would allow President Donald Trump to build his border wall is at stake.


U.S. District Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. heard arguments in two cases that seek to block the White House from spending money secured for wall construction under Trump’s declaration of a national emergency in February.

California and 19 other states brought one lawsuit; the Sierra Club and a coalition of communities along the border, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, brought the other.

They plaintiffs sought an injunction to block the government from moving forward with its construction plans. The judge said he will make a decision next week.

On Thursday, a federal judge in the nation’s capital will consider a bid by the U.S. House of Representatives to prevent Trump from spending any Defense Department money for a border wall.

Friday’s hearing in the Northern District of California, before Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr., came on a motion by two sets of challengers — the coalition of states led by California and the Sierra Club — seeking a preliminary injunction to halt all contracts and construction while Gilliam considers the cases’ merits.

The plaintiffs allege that Trump’s actions violated the constitutional requirement that no money may be spent without an appropriation from Congress, and breached restrictions in the laws that the administration is attempting to use to transfer money that had been set aside mostly for military projects and programs.

The hearing was as notable for a subject that barely came up, Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, as it was for the issues that occupied the lawyers over three hours.

Trump’s declaration is a requirement for tapping an emergency military construction authority to obtain the wall-construction funds. But since the administration has yet do that, even though it’s by far the largest potential source of money, Burnham said “nothing has happened” for the court to consider.

The lawyers challenging the government expressed concern that the administration could at any time take the military construction money for the wall and asked Gilliam to enjoin such a move in advance.

It “concerns me too,” said Gilliam. “Is the government agreeing to forgo” use of that money, he asked Burnham.

Burnham responded that it was still under consideration but promised to “let the court rule” before “anything happens on the ground” involving military funds.

The hearing is the latest chapter in Trump’s quest for a “big, beautiful wall” along the southern border to keep out undocumented migrants. Construction of the wall, which the president has claimed would be financed by Mexico, was a central promise of his campaign. Trump allowed the federal government to shut down for 35 days over the winter because the Democratic-controlled House refused to appropriate the sum he wanted.

Trump authorized additional funding diversions from the Defense and Treasury departments never intended for wall-building. Billions of dollars have already been transferred from each.

All of the funding sources specified by the administration permit repurposing for certain needs, such as “unforeseen” military necessities. Whether wall-building qualifies as one of those needs is the big statutory question in these cases.

Burnham said it was “unforeseen” that Congress would balk at the money Trump requested, thus satisfying the statute’s definition.

The challengers argued that the law says the purpose for moving money — in this case Trump’s border wall — must have been “unforeseen.” It wasn’t, they contend, citing Trump’s constant pleading during the 2016 campaign and beyond.

Similar suits are pending in Texas, as well as D.C., where a Trump appointee, Judge Trevor McFadden, will hear arguments next week.

Gilliam was appointed by President Barack Obama.

Most expect that the matter will make its way to the Supreme Court.

(Reporting by Associated Press and Washington Post)

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National Emergency

Trump told CBP head he’d pardon him if he were sent to jail for violating immigration law

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 During President Donald Trump’s visit to the border at Calexico, California, a week ago, where he told border agents to block asylum seekers from entering the US contrary to US law, the President also told the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, Kevin McAleenan, that if he were sent to jail as a result of blocking those migrants from entering the US, the President would grant him a pardon, senior administration officials tell CNN.

Two officials briefed on the exchange say the President told McAleenan, since named the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, that he “would pardon him if he ever went to jail for denying US entry to migrants,” as one of the officials paraphrased.

It was not clear if the comment was a joke; the official was not given any further context on the exchange.

The White House referred CNN to the Department of Homeland Security. A DHS spokesman told CNN, “At no time has the President indicated, asked, directed or pressured the Acting Secretary to do anything illegal. Nor would the Acting Secretary take actions that are not in accordance with our responsibility to enforce the law.”

(CNN)

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National Emergency

US States Sue To Block Trump Admistration From Diverting State Funds To Build Border Wall

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FILE - In this Oct. 26, 2018, file photo, mounted Border Patrol agents ride along a newly fortified border wall structure in Calexico, Calif. President Donald Trump is visiting Calexico on Friday, April 5, 2019, to tour the recently-built portion of the border fence that bears a silver plaque with his name on it. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California and 19 other states that are suing President Donald Trumpover his emergency declaration to build a border wall have requested a court order to stop money from being diverted to fund the project.


California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Friday that the group took action to prevent $1.6 billion from being siphoned away from fighting drug trafficking and funding military construction projects.

Becerra says it’s important to block the diversion of funds before it happens because it will harder to replace if the money is committed to border wall construction .

The action is part of the states’ lawsuit challenging Trump’s emergency declaration to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The coalition says the declaration was unconstitutional because it bypasses the role of Congress to authorize funding.

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