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US President Donald Trump Declares Emergency to Fund Border Wall on Mexican Border

While government was under a shutdown with all but the essential services operating and 800 government employees under temporary layoff, Trump scaled back his idea of a wall to a series of metal slats along the border

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U.S. President Donald Trump is seen through his transparent teleprompter as he speaks during the Missile Defense Review announcement at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., January 17, 2019. VOA

President Donald Trump declared a State of Emergency on Friday to fund his campaign promise of building a wall on the Mexican border after the Congress resolutely refused to give him the money he wanted.

Trump backed away from his threat to again shutdown the government if the legislature did not vote $5.7 billion for the border wall and approved the bipartisan funding bill without the allocation, and instead resorted to the Emergency.

He cited the drug-smuggling problems and the “15,000” people who came to the border in convoys from Central America and are camped there hoping to cross the frontier, as reasons for his Emergency.

Unlike in India, an Emergency of the type that Trump is planning does not bring sweeping powers or allow suspension of civil rights and arbitrary arrests, but only enables limited action in government operations.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party’s leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, declared that imposing an Emergency would be “a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency”.

Pelosi said that challenging the Emergency in court was an option.

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President Donald Trump talks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before departing for the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 100th Annual Convention in New Orleans, Jan. 14, 2019, in Washington. VOA

Announcing the Emergency at the White House, Trump said that he expected a cases to be filed in a federal court with judges favouring the Democrats which he would lose and a subsequent appeal, but would ultimately prevail in Supreme Court.

Trump also called on the Democrats to work with him on broad immigration reforms that would include ending immigration of relatives of citizens, but move towards a merit-based preference for immigrants.

Congress passed the bill on Thursday with $1.375 billion for a 55-mile fence, nowhere near the $5.7 billion Trump had demanded for the wall along the Mexican border that he had promised during his election campaign.

The measure was hammered out by lawmakers from both parties after Trump allowed the government to reopen after a 35-day shutdown in a showdown over the wall funding.

Trump had threatened to veto any bill without the money he demanded for the wall, but is now agreeing to it while making good on his threat to impose an Emergency to get money for the wall.

Calling the Emergency a “presidential over-reach” and “a dangerous precedent”, Democratic Party Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi said: “The Constitution maintains that only Congress has the power of the purse and may appropriate funds. This is not a Constitutional power any President has.”

Pelosi said a legal challenge was “an option and we’ll review our options”.

Several lawmakers from Trump’s own party were against an Emergency declaration. Republican Senator John Cornyn called it a “dangerous step”, saying: “The President is going to get sued and it won’t succeed in accomplishing his goal.”

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Donald Trump. VOA

He added that if Pelosi introduces a resolution against the Emergency, it will split the Republicans.

According to media reports quoting the White House officials, Trump plans to spend a total of $8 billion on the border barrier. While there is $1.375 billion allocated in the spending bill, he wants to make up the rest by diverting money from the military construction budget and funds seized from drug smugglers and dealers.

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Trump had said during his election campaign that he would make Mexico pay for the border wall – an unrealistic claim that has continued to haunt him as he sought funding in the US budget.

While government was under a shutdown with all but the essential services operating and 800 government employees under temporary layoff, Trump scaled back his idea of a wall to a series of metal slats along the border.

Having had to back down from his funding demand with Pelosi standing firm amid growing opposition to the shutdown, Trump sees the Emergency as the only way for him to build his barrier and save his credibility among his most steadfast supporters. (IANS)

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“Let it Come Out, Let the People See,” Trump on Mueller Report

Trump’s Republican allies in Congress are also poised to leap to his defense

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U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he arrives at Akron-Canton airport in Canton, Ohio, March 20, 2019. VOA

Democratic congressional leaders have, for the time being, ruled out pursuing impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. That could all change depending on what is in the eagerly awaited report on the Russia investigation being prepared by special counsel Robert Mueller.

On his way to Ohio Wednesday, Trump told reporters outside the White House that the public should have access to the Mueller report.

“Let it come out. Let the people see,” Trump said. “Let’s see whether or not it is legit.”

The decision by Democratic congressional leaders to pass on impeachment seems to be mindful of recent history, especially the Republican-led impeachment effort against President Bill Clinton in 1998.

In announcing her opposition to impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said simply that Trump “wasn’t worth it.”

Pelosi is sticking to her position despite pressure from liberal activists.

“Impeachment is a divisive issue in our country, and let us see what the facts are, what the law is, and what the behavior is of the president,” Pelosi recently told reporters at the Capitol.​

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“Let it come out. Let the people see,” Trump said. “Let’s see whether or not it is legit.” VOA

Trump: ‘Great job’

For President Trump, the idea of impeachment is, not surprisingly, a non-starter.

“Well, you can’t impeach somebody that is doing a great job. That is the way I view it,” Trump said when asked about the issue in January.

Late last year, Trump told Reuters that he was not concerned about impeachment.

“I think that the people would revolt if that happened,” he said.

Trump’s Republican allies in Congress are also poised to leap to his defense.

“I don’t think it is good for the country,” House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters last week. “The Democrats made a decision (to want to impeach) on the day President Trump one.”

Some Democrats want to keep pushing, including former Hillary Clinton senior adviser Philippe Reines. Reines wrote recently in the New York Times that Democrats would be doing a “civic duty” to pursue impeachment.

“There is a mounting political cost to not impeaching Mr. Trump,” Reines wrote last week. “He will hail it as exoneration and he will go into the 2020 campaign under the banner, ‘I Told You So.’”​

Polls say no

Recent polls show most voters do not favor impeachment at this time. A Quinnipiac University poll earlier this month found that 59 percent of those surveyed do not think House Democrats should initiate impeachment proceedings against the president, while 35 percent support the idea.

Given that the 2020 election cycle is underway, Democrats may prefer to have the voters try to oust Trump during next year’s election, according to George Washington University analyst Matt Dallek.

“By the time impeachment proceedings were even to ramp up, you are talking about the end of 2019 or early 2020,” Dallek told VOA this week. “That creates its own complication because there is another remedy for removing a president and it is called the election.”

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FILE – Then-first lady Hillary Clinton watches her husband, President Bill Clinton, pause as he thanks those Democratic members of the House of Representatives who voted against his impeachment, Dec. 19, 1998. VOA

Political risk

Democrats clearly recall what happened to Bill Clinton in 1998. Clinton lied about and tried to cover up his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky, which led to his impeachment by the House. Clinton remained in office after he was acquitted in a trial in the Senate.

Historically, impeachment has been a rare event. Clinton was only the second president impeached by the House. Andrew Johnson was the first back in 1868. Johnson avoided removal by a single vote in the Senate.

Presidential impeachments have been rare and that is by design, according to University of Virginia expert Larry Sabato.

“They (the founders) did not want presidents impeached and convicted and thrown out of office for minor offenses. They expected Congress to do it only in extreme circumstances.”

Republicans paid a price for the Clinton impeachment, losing five House seats in the 1998 midterm elections. And Sabato said that lesson could have resonance for Democrats today as they mull impeaching Trump.

“Given the fact that the Republicans took a wounded Bill Clinton and made him almost invulnerable for the rest of his term, it should serve as a warning to Democrats,” he said.

Experts also note that the damage to Republicans from the Clinton impeachment was not long-lasting. George W. Bush narrowly beat Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election, and the political fallout from Clinton’s scandal may have cost Gore the presidency.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 6, 2019. VOA

Senate obstacle

The biggest obstacle facing any impeachment effort of Trump is the Republican-controlled Senate. Democrats would have to bring over at least 20 Republican senators in any impeachment trial in order to get a conviction and remove the president from office.

A vote to impeach a president only requires a majority vote in the House, now controlled by Democrats. But in a Senate trial, it would take 67 of 100 senators to vote for conviction in order to remove the president from office, and Democrats concede that is not a possibility at the moment.

“It has less than zero chance of passing the Senate,” Sabato said. “Why would you go through all this in the House of Representatives, torpedo your entire agenda to impeach Trump in order to send it to the Senate to have him exonerated and not convicted?”

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FILE – President Richard M. Nixon and his wife, Pat Nixon, stand together in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Aug. 9, 1974. VOA

Nixon case

President Richard Nixon was not impeached over the Watergate scandal in 1974, but the process was well underway. The House began impeachment proceedings through the House Judiciary Committee and was preparing to move Articles of Impeachment to the House floor when Nixon decided to resign.

Several Republican senators including Barry Goldwater went to the White House and made it clear to Nixon that he had lost Republican support and would not survive an impeachment trial in the Senate.

Some analysts predict that President Trump could face renewed calls for his ouster depending on the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“I think if the Mueller report indicates some serious wrongdoing by the president and his campaign, it really empowers Democrats to begin deliberating how to move forward with impeachment proceedings,” said Brookings Institution scholar John Hudak.

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But other experts caution that it would have to be something quite serious for Republicans to even consider abandoning the president.

Given the lack of bipartisan support for impeachment at the moment, it does seem more likely that Trump will face the voters again in 2020 before he has to contend with a Democratic-led impeachment inquiry in the House. (VOA)