Trump Declares National Emergency To Fund US-Mexico Border Wall

President Donald Trump said Friday he will declare a national emergency at the southern U.S. border in an effort to unilaterally seize funding to begin building his long-promised wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

Trump is expected to approve Congress' spending bill, which grants him $1.375 billion for the wall, as opposed to the $5.7 billion he initially demanded. The national emergency declaration gives Trump a chance to reroute other government money to fund the project ― but also sets up a legal battle that could tie up the president's signature project for months or years.

The total wall funding will now come to about $8 billion, partially approved by Congress but mostly by Trump alone. That will buy the administration some 234 miles of border wall, a senior administration official told reporters Friday.

The national emergency declaration will allow the Trump administration to use about $3.6 billion from Defense Department construction projects to build the wall, along with another $2.5 billion the department had allocated for counter-drug activities, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters.

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President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House to declare a national emergency in order to build a wall along the southern border, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump turns back to the audience after speaking during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, to declare a national emergency in order to build a wall along the southern border. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, speaks during an enrollment ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Feb. 14, 2019. Congress sent President Donald Trump legislation he said he'll sign to avoid another government shutdown, as a new dispute looms over his decision to declare a national emergency to get a total of $8 billion in federal money for his border wall, according to an official. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A Border Patrol unit drives near a section of reinforced US-Mexico border fence seen from Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on February 14, 2019. - US President Donald Trump will sign a spending bill to avert a government shutdown but will also issue an emergency declaration to fund his controversial border wall, the White House and lawmakers said Thursday. (Photo by Guillermo Arias / AFP) (Photo credit should read GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, to declare a national emergency in order to build a wall along the southern border. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House to declare a national emergency in order to build a wall along the southern border, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House to declare a national emergency in order to build a wall along the southern border, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House to declare a national emergency in order to build a wall along the southern border, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House to declare a national emergency in order to build a wall along the southern border, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump, left, looks over to Susan Stevens, right, who is holding up a picture of her daughter, during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House to declare a national emergency in order to build a wall along the southern border, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019 in Washington. Stevens lost her daughter to opioids. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House Friday, Feb. 15, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
US President Donald Trump speaks about a state of emergency from the Rose Garden of the White House February 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. - President Donald Trump, repeating his claim that 'walls work,' announced that he will declare a national emergency in order to build a barrier on the US-Mexico border without funding from Congress. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 15: CNN's Jim Acosta (R) talks with 'Angel moms,' including Sabine Durden (L), following a news conference with U.S. President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden at the White House February 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. Trump said he would declare a national emergency to free up federal funding to build a wall along the southern border. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
A Central American migrant walks along the Rio Grande (also Rio Bravo), the river on US-Mexico border that divides the cities of Piedras Negras in Mexico's Coahuila State and Eagle Pass in Texas, US, on February 15, 2019. - President Donald Trump, repeating his claim that 'walls work,' announced Friday that he will declare a national emergency in order to build a barrier on the US-Mexico border without funding from Congress. (Photo by Julio Cesar AGUILAR / AFP) (Photo credit should read JULIO CESAR AGUILAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Central American migrants observe the Rio Grande (also Rio Bravo), the river along the US-Mexico border that divides the cities of Piedras Negras in Mexico's Coahuila State and Eagle Pass in Texas, US, on February 15, 2019. - President Donald Trump, repeating his claim that 'walls work,' announced Friday that he will declare a national emergency in order to build a barrier on the US-Mexico border without funding from Congress. (Photo by Julio Cesar AGUILAR / AFP) (Photo credit should read JULIO CESAR AGUILAR/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2019 -- U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., the United States, on Feb. 14, 2019. U.S. President Donald Trump is prepared to sign a bipartisan bill on spending and border security to avert another government shutdown, but also declare a national emergency to obtain funds for his long-promised border wall, the White House said Thursday. Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, said her party is 'reviewing our options' in responding to the anticipated emergency declaration. (Xinhua/Ting Shen) (Xinhua/Ting Shen via Getty Images)
A Border Patrol unit remains near a section of reinforced US-Mexico border fence seen from Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on February 14, 2019. - US President Donald Trump will sign a spending bill to avert a government shutdown but will also issue an emergency declaration to fund his controversial border wall, the White House and lawmakers said Thursday. (Photo by Guillermo Arias / AFP) (Photo credit should read GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/Getty Images)
A section of the reinforced US-Mexico border fence is seen from Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on February 14, 2019. - US President Donald Trump will sign a spending bill to avert a government shutdown but will also issue an emergency declaration to fund his controversial border wall, the White House and lawmakers said Thursday. (Photo by Guillermo Arias / AFP) (Photo credit should read GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/Getty Images)
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The Trump administration also plans to take executive action to move about $200 million from the Department of Homeland Security and another $600 million from the Treasury Department's asset forfeiture account.

None of the money will come from hurricane relief, Mulvaney said.

The DHS funding bill included restrictions on where new border wall could be constructed. Those restrictions won't apply to the portions built with national emergency money, a senior administration official said.

It's not as if he didn't get what he wanted, so he's waving a magic wand and taking the money.Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Thursday on the Senate floor that Trump planned to sign the bill and declare a national emergency at the same time, adding that he supported the decision. Congress passed a government funding bill Thursday evening.

McConnell warned Trump in private that declaring an emergency would spark a backlash among Republicans, according to The Washington Post.

A national emergency declaration grants a president the ability to circumvent certain government rules so that an administration can respond to a crisis. In this case, Trump is sidestepping Congress so that he can gain access to certain federal funds without congressional approval.

Administration officials cited dozens of previous national emergency declarations, insisting that Trump would not break with historical precedent by "unlocking" new pots of money for the border wall he seeks.

"It's not as if he didn't get what he wanted, so he's waving a magic wand and taking the money," Mulvaney said.

The move is almost certain to be challenged in court.

"Any crisis on our border is of President Trump's own making: family separations, child detention, turning our backs on asylum seekers, and more. There is no national emergency," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has sued the Trump administration multiple times, said in a statement. "If Trump oversteps his authority and abandons negotiations with Congress by declaring a fabricated national emergency, we won't only call his bluff, we will do what we must to hold him accountable."

Prior to the declaration, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the proclamation a "gross abuse of the power of the presidency" and vowed that "Congress will defend our constitutional authorities."

For two months, Democrats in Congress have been enmeshed in stalled negotiations with Trump as he refused to accept anything less than $5.7 billion in the federal budget for his border wall. The stalemate caused a record-breaking partial government shutdown that forced an estimated 800,000 government employees to go without pay for 35 days.

Trump reopened the government for three weeks on Jan. 25, allowing government workers to get back to work as border security negotiations continued.

In January, Trump asserted that he had "the absolute right to declare a national emergency," according to CNN. He called it "the easy route" while insisting that he'd rather Congress approve his border wall funding

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