Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

'I Can Do It If I Want': Trump Threatens to Declare National Emergency to Build Border Wall

"Declaring a national emergency to build the wall would be an abuse of emergency powers."

Common Dreams staff

President Donald Trump speaks as Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, Vice President Mike Pence, House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), and House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) listen in the Rose Garden of the White House on January 4, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Speaking outside of the White House on Friday as the government shutdown continued with no funding agreement in sight, President Donald Trump threatened to declare a national emergency to build his "border wall" if he doesn't receive the more than $5 billion in funding he's demanding from Congress.

"I can do it if I want," Trump proclaimed in response to a question from a reporter. "We can do it. I haven't done it. I may do it. I may do it."

Watch:

Trump's threat to give himself emergency powers to construct what critics have described as a "monument to racism" came shortly after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the president warned during a Situation Room meeting that he could "keep the government closed for a very long period of time, months or even years."

"Declaring a national emergency to build the wall would be an abuse of emergency powers," Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, wrote on Twitter following Trump's comments.

"If you needed more evidence that we have a pure autocrat in the White House: Trump is now considering declaring a national emergency in a disgraceful attempt to get funding for his racist border wall," Public Citizen added.

But, as Goitein wrote in The Atlantic recently, the decision to make such a declaration is "entirely within [Trump's] discretion"—and would make "more than 100 special provisions" available to him.

"For instance, the president can, with the flick of his pen, activate laws allowing him to shut down many kinds of electronic communications inside the United States or freeze Americans’ bank accounts," she wrote.

"This edifice of extraordinary powers has historically rested on the assumption that the president will act in the country's best interest when using them," Goitein continued. "But what if a president, backed into a corner and facing electoral defeat or impeachment, were to declare an emergency for the sake of holding on to power? In that scenario, our laws and institutions might not save us from a presidential power grab. They might be what takes us down."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

British Court Rules Assange Can Appeal US Extradition

"As long as this case isn't dropped, as long as Julian isn't freed, Julian continues to suffer," said Stella Moris, Assange's fiancée.

Jake Johnson ·


Biden Considering Deploying Thousands of Troops to Eastern Europe

Anti-war commentators warned of an "exceedingly dangerous quagmire" in Ukraine if the U.S. ramps up its military presence in the region.

Jake Johnson ·


Leaked Report Suggests Impunity for IDF Troops in Deadly Stop of Palestinian-American Elder

"This is a policy: Israel does not prosecute those responsible for harming Palestinians, thus making their lives miserable," said the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Exactly Right': Progressives Back Arizona Dems Censure of Sinema

"If you are a Democrat and you can't uphold the fundamental right to vote for all citizens... then there's a problem," said Rep. Ro Khanna.

Brett Wilkins ·


Amid Existential Threat to Reproductive Rights, Congress Urged to Act

"It's the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and if we don't fight like hell it could very well be the last," said one campaigner, who called on U.S. lawmakers to pass the Women's Health Protection Act.

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo