Trump declares national emergency to build border wall

Trump declares national emergency to build border wall

WASHINGTON (AP) – Battling with one branch of government and opening a new confrontation with another, President Donald Trump announced Friday he was declaring a national emergency to fulfill his pledge to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Bypassing Congress, which approved far less money for his proposed wall than he had sought, Trump said he would use executive action to siphon billions of dollars from federal military construction and counterdrug efforts for the wall, aides said. The move is already drawing bipartisan criticism on Capitol Hill and expected to face rounds of legal challenges.

Trump made the announcement from the Rose Garden, as he claimed illegal immigration was “an invasion of our country.”

Trump’s move followed a rare show of bipartisanship when lawmakers voted Thursday to fund large swaths of the government and avoid a repeat of this winter’s debilitating five-week government shutdown. The money in the bill for border barriers, about $1.4 billion, is far below the $5.7 billion Trump insisted he needed and would finance just a quarter of the more than 200 miles (322 kilometers) he wanted this year.

To bridge the gap, Trump announced that he will be spending roughly $8 billion on border barriers – combining the money approved by Congress with funding he plans to repurpose through executive actions, including the national emergency. The money is expected to come from funds targeted for military construction and counterdrug efforts, but aides could not immediately specify which military projects would be affected.

Despite widespread opposition in Congress to proclaiming an emergency, including by some Republicans, Trump was responding to pressure to act unilaterally to soothe his conservative base and avoid appearing like he’s lost his wall battle.

Word that Trump would declare the emergency prompted condemnations from Democrats and threats of lawsuits from states and others who might lose federal money or said Trump was abusing his authority.

In a sing-songy tone of voice, Trump described how the decision will be challenged and work its way through the courts, including up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

He said, “Sadly, we’ll be sued and sadly it will go through a process and happily we’ll win, I think.”

In an unusual joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called it an “unlawful declaration over a crisis that does not exist” and said it “does great violence to our Constitution and makes America less safe, stealing from urgently needed defense funds for the security of our military and our nation. ”

“The President’s actions clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution,” they said. “The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public, using every remedy available.”

Democratic state attorneys general said they’d consider legal action to block Trump. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello told the president on Twitter “we’ll see you in court” if he made the declaration.

Even if his emergency declaration withstands challenge, Trump is still billions of dollars short of his overall funding needed to build the wall as he promised in 2016. After two years of effort, Trump has not added any new border mileage; all of the construction so far has gone to replacing and repairing existing structures. Ground is expected to be broken in South Texas soon on the first new mileage.

The White House said Trump would not try to redirect federal disaster aid to the wall, a proposal they had considered but rejected over fears of a political blowback.

Senate OKs border deal; Trump will sign, declare emergency

Senate OKs border deal; Trump will sign, declare emergency

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate resoundingly approved a border security compromise Thursday that ignores most of President Donald Trump’s demands for building a wall with Mexico but would prevent a new government shutdown. The White House said Trump would sign it but then declare a national emergency and perhaps invoke other executive powers to try to shift money to wall-building from elsewhere in the federal budget.

Congress’ Democratic leaders, Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the House and Chuck Schumer in the Senate, quickly branded such a presidential declaration “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 passage and Trump’s signature were assured for the basic spending bill compromise, which for now would stamp a bipartisan coda on a nasty melee that’s dominated the initial months of power sharing in Washington.

The specter of the national-emergency declaration has produced widespread opposition in Congress, but Trump is under pressure to soothe his conservative base and avoid looking like he’s surrendered in his wall battle with Congress.

At the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump would sign the bill and take “other executive action, including a national emergency.” She added, “The president is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country.”

Trump had demanded $5.7 billion to start building more than 200 miles of wall. The bipartisan agreement provides under $1.4 billion — enough for just 55 miles of new barriers and fencing.

An emergency declaration and other assertions of executive power to access money are expected to prompt lawsuits and potential votes in Congress aimed at blocking Trump from diverting money, which could conceivably reach billions of dollars. White House aides and congressional Republicans have suggested Trump might tap funds targeted for military construction, disaster relief and counterdrug efforts.

In a surprising development, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would support Trump’s emergency declaration. That was a turnabout for the Kentucky Republican, who like Democrats and many Republicans has until now opposed such action.

Democratic opponents of a declaration have said there is no crisis at the border and Trump is merely sidestepping Congress, while Republicans have warned that future Democratic presidents could use the move to force spending on their own priorities like gun control.

But lawmakers from both parties were openly relieved to forestall a fresh federal shutdown and put the border security battle — at least this phase of it — behind them.

Meeting with reporters, House Speaker Pelosi, warned that legal action aimed at blocking Trump’s emergency declaration was an option, but she stopped short of saying it would definitely occur.

No. 2 House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., was more definitive. “House Democrats will challenge this irresponsible declaration,” he said in a statement.

The Senate approved the border security deal by a lopsided 83-16 tally. The House planned to vote on passage in the evening.

Trump’s signature will end this stage of a raucous legislative saga that commenced before Christmas and was ending, almost fittingly, on Valentine’s Day. The low point was the historically long 35-day partial federal shutdown, which Trump sparked and was in full force when Democrats took control of the House, compelling him to share power for the first time.

Trump yielded on the shutdown Jan. 25 after public opinion turned against him and congressional Republicans. He’d won not a nickel of the $5.7 billion he’d demanded for his wall but had caused missed paychecks for legions of federal workers and contractors and lost government services for countless others. It was a political fiasco for Trump and an early triumph for Pelosi.

The fight left both parties dead set against another shutdown. That sentiment weakened Trump’s hand and fueled the bipartisan deal, a pact that contrasts with the parties’ still-raging differences over health care, taxes and investigations of the president.

Notably, the word “wall” — which fueled many a chant at Trump campaign events and then his rallies as president — does not appear once in the compromise’s 1,768 pages of legislation and explanatory materials. “Barriers” and “fencing” are the nouns of choice.

The pact would also squeeze funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, in an attempt to pressure the agency to gradually detain fewer immigrants. To the dismay of Democrats, it would still leave an agency many of them consider abusive holding thousands more immigrants than it did last year.

The measure contains money for improved surveillance equipment, more customs agents and humanitarian aid for detained immigrants. The overall bill also provides $330 billion to finance dozens of federal programs for the rest of the year, one-fourth of federal agency budgets.

The agreement was expected to be carried by pragmatists from both parties. Many of Congress’ most liberal members were expected to oppose it, unwilling to yield an inch to Trump’s anti-immigrant policies, while staunch conservatives preferred a bill that would go further.

“I made a promise to my community that I wouldn’t fund ICE,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., a freshman who’s become a face of her party’s left wing and a leading proponent of eliminating the agency.

Swallowing the deal would mark a major concession by Trump, who has spent months calling the situation at the southern border a national security crisis. In private conversations, Trump has called the congressional bargainers poor negotiators, said a person familiar with the conversations who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

Trump has repeatedly vowed Mexico would pay for the wall, a suggestion that country has spurned. His descriptions of the wall’s size have fluctuated, at times saying it would cover 1,000 of the 2,000-mile boundary. Previous administrations constructed over 650 miles of barriers.

Facing opposition from Trump, Democrats lost their bid to include language giving federal contractors back pay for wages lost during the last shutdown. Government workers have been paid for time they were furloughed or worked without paychecks.

Also omitted was an extension of the Violence Against Women Act. Democrats say this will give them a chance later this year to add protections for transgender people to that law.

Police detective killed by friendly fire in New York City

Police detective killed by friendly fire in New York City

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City police detective was shot and killed by friendly fire Tuesday night as officers confronted a robbery suspect who turned out to be armed with a replica handgun, Commissioner James O’Neill said.

“This appears to be an absolutely tragic case of friendly fire,” an emotional O’Neill said at a late-night news conference.

Det. Brian Simonsen, 42, was struck in the chest as multiple officers fired on the suspect at a T-Mobile store in Queens, O’Neill said. Simonsen, a 19-year NYPD veteran, was put in a squad car and taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Sgt. Matthew Gorman was shot in the leg, O’Neil said. A passerby stopped and drove him to the hospital in his car. Gorman is in stable condition.

The suspect, a 27-year-old man with an extensive criminal record, was armed with an imitation firearm, O’Neill said. He was wounded and is hospitalized in stable condition.

“Make no mistake about it, friendly fire aside, it is because of the actions of the suspect that Det. Simonsen is dead,” O’Neill said.

Police swarmed to the store around 6:10 p.m. after a 911 caller standing outside reported seeing the suspect — dressed in all black and carrying a duffel bag — take two employees to a back room at gunpoint, according to dramatic dispatch audio.

“No sirens, guys,” a dispatcher warns.

Simonsen and Gorman were working on another case nearby when the call came over and arrived around the same time as patrol officers, O’Neill said. At first, the front of the store appeared empty, he said.

Then a man matching the suspect’s description emerged from the rear of the store pointing at them what appeared to be handgun and police started shooting, he said.

“Shots fired! Shots fired!” an officer is heard yelling on the dispatch audio over a barrage of gunshots.

About a minute later, Gorman tells dispatchers that he’s been hit and an officer screams for dispatchers to rush an ambulance to the scene.

Arwindern Singh, who lives across the street from the store, said he heard about 20 shots go off and thought they were firecrackers.

When he went outside, he said “all of a sudden there were cops all over.”

The gunfire blew out the store’s doors, showering the sidewalk with glass. Bullet holes pocked frosted windows decorated with the T-Mobile logo. Scores of police officers streamed to the scene, which was roped off with crime tape. Some walked together in a line, searching for evidence.

At Jamaica Hospital, officers guarded the emergency room entrance as O’Neill and Mayor Bill de Blasio met with Gorman and offered their condolences to Simonsen’s wife and mother.

“It was heartbreaking. Absolutely heartbreaking,” De Blasio said. “His mom, who has suffered so much. His wife. The shock that they’re feeling was so painful to see.”

Simonsen should’ve been off Tuesday for a union meeting, but he opted to go to work so he could continue tracking a string of recent robberies, Detectives’ Endowment Association president Michael Palladino said.

Given the suspect’s criminal history, Palladino said: “I think we have to ask the question: Why was someone with such an extensive arrest record out on the street and not incarcerated?”

In 2009, Simonsen investigated the death of an 11-month old boy who drowned in a bucket of water at an unlicensed daycare while the woman running it was passed out on NyQuil. Simonsen testified at Kristal Khan’s trial, which ended in her conviction, that she “didn’t show any emotion” when he questioned her two hours after the incident.

The last New York City police officer killed in the line of duty was a 12-year veteran and mother of three who was gunned down in 2017 while sitting in a police vehicle.

Officer Miosotis Familia, 48, was writing in her notebook when ex-convict Alexander Bonds strode up and shot her through a window. Bonds, who had railed about police and prison officers in a Facebook video months earlier, was fatally shot by officers soon after the attack.

In December, a police officer on Staten Island survived being hit by friendly fire as officers responding to a domestic dispute call shot and killed a man carrying a knife.

De Blasio on Tuesday night praised officers for rushing into dangerous situations and taking decisive action when lives are threatened.

“They know it’s a moment where they cannot hesitate, where even a moment of hesitation can mean a life is lost,” De Blasio said. “That bravery and that resolve is something that we all need to understand.”

Lawmakers reach deal on border wall funding

Lawmakers reach deal on border wall funding

Trump calls for end of resistance politics in State of Union

Trump calls for end of resistance politics in State of Union

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing a divided Congress for the first time, President Donald Trump on Tuesday called on Washington to reject “the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution.” He warned emboldened Democrats that “ridiculous partisan investigations” into his administration and businesses could hamper a surging American economy.

Trump’s appeals for bipartisanship in his State of the Union address clashed with the rancorous atmosphere he has helped cultivate in the nation’s capital — as well as the desire of most Democrats to block his agenda during his next two years in office. Their opposition was on vivid display as Democratic congresswomen in the audience formed a sea of white in a nod to early 20th-century suffragettes.

Trump spoke at a critical moment in his presidency, staring down a two-year stretch that will determine whether he is re-elected or leaves office in defeat. His speech sought to shore up Republican support that had eroded slightly during the recent government shutdown and previewed a fresh defense against Democrats as they ready a round of investigations into every aspect of his administration.

“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” he declared. Lawmakers in the cavernous House chamber sat largely silent.

Looming over the president’s address was a fast-approaching Feb. 15 deadline to fund the government and avoid another shutdown. Democrats have refused to acquiesce to his demands for a border wall, and Republicans are increasingly unwilling to shut down the government to help him fulfill his signature campaign pledge. Nor does the GOP support the president’s plan to declare a national emergency if Congress won’t fund the wall.

Wary of publicly highlighting those intraparty divisions, Trump made no mention of an emergency declaration in his remarks. He did offer a lengthy defense of his call for a border wall, declaring: “I will build it.” But he delivered no ultimatums about what it would take for him to sign legislation to keep the government open.

“I am asking you to defend our very dangerous southern border out of love and devotion to our fellow citizens and to our country,” he said, painting a dark and foreboding picture of the risks posed to Americans by illegal immigration.

The 72-year-old Trump harkened back to moments of American greatness, celebrating the moon landing as astronaut Buzz Aldrin looked on from the audience and heralding the liberation of Europe from the Nazis. He led the House chamber in singing happy birthday to a Holocaust survivor sitting with first lady Melania Trump.

“Together, we represent the most extraordinary nation in all of history. What will we do with this moment? How will we be remembered?” Trump said.

The president ticked through a litany of issues with crossover appeal, including boosting infrastructure, lowering prescription drug costs and combating childhood cancer. But he also appealed to his political base, both with his harsh rhetoric on immigration and a call for Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the “late-term abortion of children.”

Trump devoted much of his speech to foreign policy, another area where Republicans have increasingly distanced themselves from the White House. He announced details of a second meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, outlining a Feb. 27-28 summit in Vietnam.

Trump and Kim’s first summit garnered only a vaguely worded commitment by the North to denuclearize. But the president said his outreach to Pyongyang had made the U.S. safer.

“If I had not been elected president of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea,” he said.

As he condemned political turmoil in Venezuela, Trump declared that “America will never be a socialist country” — a remark that may also have been targeted at high-profile Democrats who identify as socialists.

The president was surrounded by symbols of his emboldened political opposition. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was praised by Democrats for her hard-line negotiating during the shutdown, sat behind Trump as he spoke. And several senators running for president were also in the audience, including Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Another Democratic star, Stacey Abrams, delivered the party’s response to Trump. Abrams narrowly lost her bid in November to become America’s first black female governor, and party leaders are aggressively recruiting her to run for U.S. Senate from Georgia.

Speaking from Atlanta, Abrams calls the shutdown a political stunt that “defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people, but our values.”

Trump’s address amounted to an opening argument for his re-election campaign. Polls show he has work to do, with his approval rating falling to just 34 percent after the shutdown, according to a recent survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

One bright spot for the president has been the economy, which has added jobs for 100 straight months.

“The only thing that can stop it,” he said, “are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations” — an apparent swipe at the special counsel investigation into ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign, as well as the upcoming congressional investigations.

The diverse Democratic caucus, which includes a bevy of women, sat silently for much of Trump’s speech. But they leapt to their feet when he noted there are “more women in the workforce than ever before.”

The increase is due to population growth — and not something Trump can credit to any of his policies.

The president also defended his decisions to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan over the opposition from national security officials and many Republican lawmakers.

“Great nations do not fight endless wars,” he said, adding that the U.S. is working with allies to “destroy the remnants” of the Islamic State group and that he has “accelerated” efforts to reach a settlement in Afghanistan.

IS militants have lost territory since Trump’s surprise announcement in December that he was pulling U.S. forces out, but military officials warn the fighters could regroup within six months to a year of the Americans leaving. Several leading GOP lawmakers have sharply criticized his plans to withdraw from Syria, as well as from Afghanistan.

Trump’s guests for the speech included Alice Marie Johnson, a woman whose life sentence for drug offenses was commuted by the president, and Joshua Trump, a sixth-grade student from Wilmington, Delaware, who has been bullied over his last name. They sat with Mrs. Trump during the address.