White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders sent an email to employees, assuring them the President has presidential emergency powers that would allow him to push an emergency declaration.
The email addressed “High Level Announcement” was reported by Axios.
President Trump said Friday he would consider signing an emergency declaration with Mexico and diverting money from the National Defense Authorization Act to pay for the wall but said he has enough money in emergency funds he can use without congressional approval.
Prior to the email, several senior administration officials insisted the President doesn’t need to declare an emergency to use his existing emergency powers to pay for the wall but said no one had ever seen a legal memo on the topic and said they doubted there was any legal avenue Trump could use without first getting approval from Congress.
The White House issued no response to an inquiry about whether the email was sent internally.
White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said: “The President has the inherent constitutional authority to declare a national emergency. That’s all I have to say on that.”
According to Axios, the email that was sent to White House employees said: “Just because you do not hear about a national emergency at the border doesn’t mean that there isn’t one.
“Our President has the statutory authority to declare a national emergency (executive order 5 U.S.C. §§ 901 et seq.) that could provide funds for building a wall, if he so chooses, despite the current federal fiscal year ending at midnight on September 30, 2019. The official White House language is not as broad, but it’s not as circumscribed as it might appear at first glance.”
The letter says the President is “also authorized to change spending in any appropriations bills authorized by the National Defense Authorization Act” but suggests that would give Congress time to act before funding is cut off.
President Trump has sent more than 6,000 US troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in an attempt to stop the flow of illegal drugs, illegal immigrants and illegal gang activity.
That effort has infuriated many Democrats who call the deployment an unnecessary militarization of the border.
A senior Senate aide told Axios the email is “none of my business” but described the idea that a pending defense bill could provide the funding to build a wall as “outrageous.”
At a briefing Friday, Shah said the President is “really not interested in declaring a national emergency to fund the wall.”
As a result, Shah said, “There are a number of other ways he could do that and he has articulated his willingness to do so.”
The aide said what the President appears to be interested in is changing the spending status of $3.6 billion in Pentagon funding earmarked for defense projects that are already in the pipeline and diverted to the border.
“We have been hearing from an increasing number of members that they may get part of the money for the wall in the budget that is expected in May,” Shah said.
He said the President is “committed to finding all funding available to us.”
Axios reported the email also was addressed to a private email list.