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Trump says he’s declaring emergency to build border wall

Last Updated Feb 15, 2019 at 6:51 pm EDT

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced Friday that he will declare a national emergency to fulfill his pledge to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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

RELATED: A southern U.S. border wall could lead to more drugs in Canada, says expert

“I am going to be signing a national emergency,” Trump said from the Rose Garden, as he claimed illegal immigration marked “an invasion of our country.”

In a rare show of bipartisanship, 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 200-plus 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.