UPDATED 11:04 AM PT – Wednesday, February 13, 2019
It’s a race against the clock as the White House fights to avoid the stain of another government shutdown. Sources close to the president reported early Wednesday morning that he fully intends to sign the border security deal, once its approved by Congress, before midnight Friday. However, the president held back his full endorsement for the bipartisan agreement on Tuesday, when he told reporters he was not happy with the deal.
“I can’t say I’m happy, I can say I’m thrilled, but the wall is getting built regardless — doesn’t matter — because we’re doing other things beyond what we’re talking about here, so we’ll see what happens,” he stated.
The president said all options are on the table when it comes to securing more funding for the wall, including the possibility of declaring a national emergency. However, that’s not the only option on the table. There are at least two other legal alternatives the president could use to secure additional border wall funds without having to declare a national emergency.
The first would be to access forfeiture funds from the Treasury Department. Under this executive action the president could redirect up to $680 million of the department’s funding to support law enforcement activities, including for ICE and Border Patrol. If President Trump were to take this route, the order would first need to clear the Office of Management and Budget. Once cleared, the Treasury Department and Department of Homeland Security would then be required to notify Congress and wait 15-days before the funds can be transferred.
The second option would be to invoke U.S. Code 284, which would allow the president to redirect up to two billion dollars in defense funds for any counter-drug operation. This means President Trump could use this executive action to deploy military forces to the southern border to build the wall under the argument that a physical barrier would help reduce illegal drug flow into the U.S.
While these are viable and legal options, any executive action the president takes on border security will likely get tied up in the courts regardless if he declares a national emergency or not. However, we can expect any legal challenge to the president’s potential executive action to be pushed back by the White House as this administration stands firm on its position the crisis at the border is a matter of nation security.
“I think that the American people now have a better understanding of the true crisis, the national security and humanitarian crisis, at the border and people have a better picture of why this is so important. It’s not political rhetoric. It’s a matter of national security. It’s a matter of protecting people in this country and, again, that’s the president’s most important duty he has.”
— White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders