President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the US-Mexico border without congressional approval, an action Democrats vowed to challenge as a violation of the US Constitution.
The Republican president’s move to circumvent Congress represented an escalation in his efforts to make good on a 2016 presidential campaign pledge to build a wall to halt the flow into the country of illegal immigrants, who Trump says bring crime and drugs.
Hours after Trump’s announcement, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee said it had launched an investigation into the emergency declaration.
In a letter to Trump, committee Democrats asked him to make available for a hearing White House and Justice Department officials involved in the action. They also requested legal documents on the decision that led to the declaration, setting a deadline of next Friday.
“We believe your declaration of an emergency shows a reckless disregard for the separation of powers and your own responsibilities under our constitutional system,” said the letter signed by Chairman Jerrold Nadler and other top Democrats on the panel.
Trump on Friday also signed a bipartisan government spending bill that would prevent another partial government shutdown by funding several agencies that otherwise would have closed on Saturday.
The funding bill represented a legislative defeat for him since it contains no money for his proposed wall – the focus of weeks of conflict between him and Democrats in Congress.
Trump made no mention of the bill in rambling comments to reporters in the White House’s Rose Garden.
He had demanded that Congress provide him with $5.7 billion in wall funding as part of legislation to fund the agencies. That triggered a historic, 35-day December-January government shutdown that hurt the US economy and his opinion poll numbers.
By reorienting his quest for wall funding toward a legally uncertain strategy based on declaring a national emergency, Trump risks plunging into a lengthy legislative and legal battle with Democrats and dividing his fellow Republicans – many of whom expressed grave reservations on Friday about the president’s action.
Fifteen Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate introduced legislation on Thursday to prevent Trump from invoking emergency powers to transfer funds to his wall from accounts Congress has already committed to other projects.