House Armed Service Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith, D-WA, stunned many over the weekend and admitted that President Donald Trump has the full authority to use the U.S. military to build the border wall.
During a segment Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Smith said the president has the legal authority to declare a national emergency and use the military to build a wall on the border between the United States and Mexico.
“Does President Trump have the ability, have the authority to declare a national emergency and have the military build his wall?” host George Stephanopoulos asked.
“Well, unfortunately, the short answer is yes. There is a provision in the law that says the president can declare an emergency,” Smith began, with Stephanopoulos visibly not pleased with the answer at all.
“It’s been done a number of times, but primarily it’s been done to build facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq. In this case, I think the president would be wide open to a court challenge saying, where is the emergency? You have to establish that in order to do this. Beyond that, this would be a terrible use of Department of Defense dollars,” Smith continued.
He added: “The president spends most of his time talking about how we’re not spending enough on national security, now he wants to take $20 billion out of defense budget to build a wall. Which by the way, is not going to improve our border security. The president seems unaware of this, but we have actually already built a wall across much of the border, and all border security experts that I talk to say, where a wall makes sense, it’s already been built. We should have a conversation about border security, but first, we should we open the government and pay our border patrol agents and the federal agents that are furloughed.”
Smith admitting the president can declare a national emergency and use the military to build the wall comes as Republicans and Democrats are still hashing it out over funding for the wall.
Over the weekend, staff for top level Democrats met at the White House with Vice President Mike Pence and others to discuss a bill to reopen the federal government and allocate funding to build the wall.
Last month, House Republicans voted 217-185 to approve a measure that would keep the government open and allocate $5.7 billion for border wall funding.
The bill is now waiting a full vote in the Senate, where lawmakers are hashing it out over funding for border security.
Trump originally wanted $5 billion for border wall funding and Democrats only offered $1.6 billion, which they claimed was a “very generous” offer.
The president has vowed to keep part of the government shut for “months” or even “years” if that’s what it takes to get funding for the wall.
Or, it appears he can declare a national emergency and get the wall built much sooner than Democrats would like to see.