Jacquelyn Martin, AP
President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House after a meeting with Congressional leaders on border security, Friday, Jan. 4, 2019, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

SALT LAKE CITY — President Donald Trump said Friday he is considering using emergency powers to build a border wall, which would allow him to use military funding to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to multiple news reports.

What’s going on: Trump held a brief presser in the Rose Garden at the White House where he spoke on a number of topics, including the government shutdown over border wall funding. Trump said he could use national emergency powers to build the wall. This confirmed an ABC News scoop on the same topic.

  • “I can do it if I want,” he said, according to USA Today. "We can call a national emergency because of the security ... I haven't done it. I may do it but we can call a national emergency and build it very quickly.”

Context: Trump has been saying for months now that he would declare a national emergency over funding for a wall. However, he hasn’t ever declared one.

  • Instead, the U.S. government has gone into a partial shutdown because Congress and the president have reached a stalemate on whether or not to fund the wall. Trump prefers earning funding through Congress, CNBC reports.
  • "If we can do it through the negotiating process, we're giving that a shot," Trump said Friday. He added, "We can call a national emergency. I haven't done it. I may do it. I may do it. We can call a national emergency and build it very quickly. It's another way of doing it."

Can he do that?: In short, yes. According to USA Today, a national emergency gives the president the ability to seize property, call up the National Guard and hire and fire military officers at will."

  • And it might be happening sooner than later. Three U.S. officials told CNN that members of the Homeland Defense team at the Pentagon met with Trump to discuss the possibility of using military funding to build the wall.
  • The officials said the Pentagon believes there might be to $1 to $2 billion available that he could use to fund the wall under a national emergency situation.
  • “The officials said that while no formal direction or orders have been given to tap these funds, defense officials believe the White House will move to direct the Pentagon to act should Congress prove unable to provide the necessary funding,” according to CNN.

Two codes: There are two codes in U.S. law that could be used to support this national emergency.

  • One of them is 10 U.S.C 284, which allows the secretary of defense to “provide support for the counterdrug activities or activities to counter transnational organized crime of any other department or agency of the Federal Government or of any State, local, tribal, or foreign law enforcement agency for” a number of reasons, which you can read on Cornell Law School’s website.
  • Another is 10 U.S.C. 2808, which reads: “In the event of a declaration of war or the declaration by the President of a national emergency in accordance with the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) that requires use of the armed forces, the Secretary of Defense, without regard to any other provision of law, may undertake military construction projects, and may authorize the Secretaries of the military departments to undertake military construction projects, not otherwise authorized by law that are necessary to support such use of the armed forces. Such projects may be undertaken only within the total amount of funds that have been appropriated for military construction, including funds appropriated for family housing, that have not been obligated.”

Democrats reaction: In December, a number of Democratic senators sent a letterto then-Defense Secretary James Mattis, saying they opposed using military funding for the wall.

  • "We understand that the department is currently examining other authorities for this roughly $450 million project outside of the budget request process, specifically the potential use of 10 U.S.C. 2808 and 10 U.S.C 284," the letter said.
  • "As you know, outside of a few small locations requiring security measures for weapons of mass destruction shortly after 9/11, 10 U.S.C. 2808 has never been used inside the United States. We urge you in the strongest possible fashion to refrain from considering using this authority or 10 U.S.C. 284 for this potential $450 million border wall project," it added.

Expert voice: Todd Harrison, a defense budget expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told ABC News the emergency powers strategy would be an uphill battle.

42 comments on this story
  • “I don't think that this is a real possibility given the restrictions already in place on how money can and cannot be used,” he told ABC. “It is against the law to use money for purposes other than it was appropriated without getting prior approval from Congress. I don't think declaring a national emergency would make a difference in this case, so I don't think their theory holds much water. Moreover, the president is likely to meet stiff resistance from defense hawks within his own party if he tries to use billions of dollars of military funding for something other than military purposes.”