Sunday 24 March 2019

Trump's move to build border wall 'does violence to US Constitution'

Democrats brand national emergency a 'historic power grab' as they rally support to vote against it

Sworn enemies: Nancy Pelosi is determined to stop the move to build a border wall by President Donald Trump. Photo: Getty Images
Sworn enemies: Nancy Pelosi is determined to stop the move to build a border wall by President Donald Trump. Photo: Getty Images
President Donald Trump with wife Melania. Photo: Reuters

Mike DeBonis

The US House of Representatives will vote on Tuesday on a measure to reject President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency to build a US-Mexico border wall.

The announcement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came an hour after a disapproval resolution had been made and she told reporters she would waste no time putting it up for a vote once representatives return to Washington next week.

"The president's act is lawless - it does violence to our Constitution and therefore our democracy," Democrat Ms Pelosi said, arguing Mr Trump's February 15 declaration violated the constitutional balance of powers by undermining Congress's authority to manage federal spending.

Her fellow Democrat Joaquin Castro, who wrote the one-page resolution, said he had gathered at least 226 co-sponsors for his measure - more than enough to guarantee House passage. But only one Republican, Justin Amash, has joined the bill so far.

Mr Castro said he would continue calling Republicans over the weekend to build support for the measure and he was hopeful many would ultimately vote with Democrats to reject the emergency.

"This is a historic power grab, and it will require historic unity by members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative, to counteract the president's parasitic movement," he said.

While House passage is all but assured, but it is unclear whether a disapproval resolution can pass the Senate, where Republicans enjoy a 53 to 47 majority. Only one Senate Republican publicly offered support for a disapproval measure, Senator Susan Collins, though several other GOP senators have signalled discomfort with Mr Trump's declaration.

Ms Pelosi and other Democrats have tried to couch their arguments against the emergency declaration in constitutional and institutional terms, arguing Congress cannot stand idly by while a president usurps the legislative branch's powers. They're hoping to win over conservatives who have been critical of the expansive use of executive powers in the federal government.

"We have a separation of powers in our country," Ms Pelosi said. "We battled against a monarchy; we did not intend to establish one in our country."

House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat, made the same case to Republicans in a 'Washington Post' opinion piece, arguing that Mr Trump was moving to "subvert the will of Congress" and was "seeking to strip it of its greatest power, that of the purse" by spending billions of dollars on a border wall that Congress refused to fund.

"Whether you support the border wall or oppose it, you should be deeply troubled by the president's intent to obtain it through a plainly unconstitutional abuse of power," he said. "The time for silent disagreement is over. You must speak out."

But Republicans have rarely defied the president, usually on matters of foreign policy such as his recent move to withdraw US troops from Syria.

A vote to disapprove of his national emergency declaration would represent a rejection of a main "stay domestic" policy - a border wall - that remains overwhelmingly popular with GOP voters.

Separately, it was revealed that New York state prosecutors have put together a criminal case against Paul Manafort that they could file quickly if the former chairman of Mr Trump's 2016 campaign receives a presidential pardon.

New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr is ready to file an array of tax and other charges against Mr Manafort, according to two people familiar with the matter.

It seen as something of an insurance policy should the president exercise his power to free the former aide.

Skirting laws that protect defendants from being charged twice for the same offence has been one of Mr Vance's challenges.

Mr Manafort was convicted of eight felonies, pleaded guilty to two more and is scheduled to be sentenced next month for those federal crimes.

Prosecutors working for Special Counsel Mr Mueller have recommended as long as 24 years in prison, a virtual life sentence for the 69-year-old political consultant.

Irish Independent

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