Democrat Adam Schiff Just Laid Out Why Trump’s National Emergency Is Unconstitutional

“If we surrender the power of the purse…there will be little check and no balance left.”

House Intelligence Committee members Rep. Terry Sewell (D-AL), Rep. Adam Schiff (D_CA) and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) join House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for a news conference July 17, 2018.Chip Somodevilla/Getty

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President Donald Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency in an attempt to gin up funding for his wall on the United States’ Southern border with Mexico is plainly unconstitutional, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told CNN on Sunday morning.

“This is the first time a president has declared an emergency when Congress has explicitly rejected funding for a particular project that the president is advocating,” Schiff said. Trump declared a national emergency over border wall funding on February 14 after failing to come to an agreement with Congress and threatening to shut down the federal government (again). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell eventually came around to supporting the idea of declaring a national emergency after initially expressing concerns about the precedent it might set for presidential power moving forward.

Unlike McConnell, Democrats are holding firm to their belief that Trump is crossing a delicate constitutional line in bypassing Congress and diverting millions of dollars in federal money to a deeply partisan project. “If we surrender the power of the purse, which is our most important power, there will be little check and no balance left,” Schiff said Sunday.

The next step in this saga will be a challenge in the courts, which is already underway. The American Civil Liberties Union announced that it will sue Trump over the move. “By the president’s very own admission in the Rose Garden, there is no national emergency,” ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said in a statement. “He just grew impatient and frustrated with Congress, and decided to move along his promise for a border wall ‘faster.’”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also signaled that democrats will file their own legal challenge over the move. “It’s not an emergency, what’s happening at the border,” Pelosi said. “It’s a humanitarian challenge to us.”

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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