CNN: Trump administration preparing "national emergency" draft for border wall funds

Published: Jan. 24, 2019 at 5:47 PM EST
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The White House is preparing a draft proclamation for the president to declare a national emergency along the southern border and has allegedly identified more than $7 billion in potential funds for the border wall, CNN reports.

According to CNN, President Trump's advisers "remain divided" on the issue, but the White House has been moving forward with plans that would bypass Congress.

"The massive amount of aliens who unlawfully enter the United States each day is a direct threat to the safety and security of our nation and constitutes a national emergency," a draft of a presidential proclamation reads.

"Now, therefore, I, Donald J. Trump, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C 1601, et seq.), hereby declare that a national emergency exists at the southern border of the United States," the draft adds.

CNN reports that the draft was, according to a US government official, updated as recently as last week.

The administration could pull: $681 million from treasury forfeiture funds, $3.6 billion in military construction, $3 billion in Pentagon civil works funds and $200 million in Department of Homeland Security funds.

According to CNN, if the declaration is made, the US Army Corps of Engineers would be deployed to construct the wall. Some of the wall could be built on private property, which would have to be seized by the administration.

If the plan proceeds, it will likely be challenged in court and in Congress, which the administration allegedly acknowledged, CNN reported. According to the news network, the proclamation says that environmental reviews can be skipped and DHS can use waivers to bypass contracting laws.

CNN reports that the document cites Title 10 of the US Code, which allows Trump to unlock a stash of Pentagon funds that are earmarked but have no signed contracts for spending that money. That would give the president authority to pull from military construction funds and civil works projects.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, tweeted earlier this month that acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, "assured Texans that he understood the deep concerns about using Harvey relief funds for the border." CNN previously reported that the Pentagon was asked to provide a list of those projects in anticipation of a national emergency.

"Options under consideration conceded that acquiring private property would take time. Even if voluntary, the land could take up to a year to be acquired," CNN reported. Declaring a national emergency would not speed that process up, a government official said.

Customs and Border Protection has said it would consider eminent domain in the future.

"It is always CBP's preference to acquire property through a voluntary, negotiated sale. The Government will attempt to negotiate an offer to sell using survey data and value estimates gleaned from the surveying process," reads an excerpt in a border wall Q&A on their site. "The Government will attempt to negotiate an offer to sell before moving forward with exercising eminent domain. However, if the Government and landowner are unable to reach a negotiated sale or if the Government is unable to obtain clean title, the Government will need to file an eminent domain action."