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Trump Declares National Emergency With Challenges Likely To Follow


The government will not shut down when the clock strikes midnight tonight. President Trump has signed a border security and government funding bill that will keep the federal government open for business. It delivers far less border wall funding than the president demanded. And so also today, Trump followed through on something he's been hinting at, threatening for weeks. He signed a proclamation declaring a national emergency that will allow him to take money from other parts of the government to build his border wall.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's been signed by other presidents. From 1977 or so, it gave the presidents the power. There's rarely been a problem. They sign it. Nobody cares. I guess they weren't very exciting.

KELLY: Let me bring in NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Hey, Tam.


KELLY: Start with the president - with the precedent because he's right. Presidents have done this before.

KEITH: Yeah, that's right. Since the National Emergencies Act was passed in 1976, 59 emergencies have been declared. Some 30 are still on the books. But none have been like this. They were generally all in line with congressional intent and related to situations widely agreed to be emergencies, whereas in this instance, you know, Congress has clearly decided not to give the president all the money he was asking for. So he is using an emergency to get around the limitations that were placed on him. Numerous members of Congress, including a handful of Republicans, are saying that this is executive overreach in this form.

KELLY: And what arguments did he marshal to support his position in declaring this emergency proclamation? I was watching some at the White House today. And he was describing the situation at the southern border as a crisis, as a national emergency, the argument he has been making for weeks.

KEITH: Yeah. It is exactly the argument that he has been making for weeks. There was nothing new there. He, as he has done, cited statistics, often inaccurately, said a wall would help prevent drugs from coming into the country and stop human trafficking though various experts on those matters question his assessment of how useful a wall would really be. And he also said a number of things that could ultimately undermine the case that he's trying to build that this is an emergency that requires an immediate response, like this answer he gave to a reporter's question.


TRUMP: I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn't need to do this. But I'd rather do it much faster. And I don't have to do it for the election. I've already done a lot of wall for the election - 2020.

KEITH: It's this amazing thing where the president often just seems to read the stage directions. He says what, you know, he may be thinking but the kinds of things that you don't necessarily say out loud.

KELLY: Let me ask you to get technical for a second here the extra money that this will unleash - how exactly is he doing it? Where's it coming from? How much is he going to get?

KEITH: So the total would be about $8 billion for border barrier building - $1.4 billion of it would come from the funding bill that he signed today. But the biggest additional chunk, $3.6 billion, is what required the emergency. That would come from military construction projects. He said that he was talking to some folks about it, and some of those didn't sound too important to him. Our Tom Bowman says that the Defense Department is going to look to overseas projects first because many of these construction projects, including for military family housing and other things like that, have a constituency. And members of Congress are not going to like it.

KELLY: And meanwhile, quickly, legal challenges - we're talking to the attorney general of California elsewhere on the show. He's already come out and said today he's going to file suit to stop this.

KEITH: And President Trump has indicated he's expecting it.

KELLY: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith, thank you.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.