WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of 58 former senior national security officials is expected to join opposition to President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration.
The president aims to use military construction funds to build his southern border wall, beyond the $1.4 billion Congress approved for border security. But he faces opposition from House Democrats mounting a vote Tuesday to block it — and now a joint statement whose signatories include former Secretaries of State Madeline Albright and John Kerry, former Defense Secretaries Chuck Hagel and Leon Panetta, and former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
The former officials’ statement against Trump’s Feb. 15 declaration was first reported by The Washington Post. The statement is expected to be entered into the Congressional Record on Monday to bolster lawsuits and other legal actions challenging the emergency proclamation.
“There is no factual basis for the declaration of a national emergency,” reads the statement, which argues that border crossings are near a 40-year low and that there is no terrorist emergency at the border.
The statement comes a day after acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said — following a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border — that the government needs a broader, more effective approach to border control. He suggested the Pentagon could contribute its expertise in surveillance and monitoring.
The Democratic-controlled House is expected to vote to block Trump from using the declaration. The measure is sure to pass, and the GOP-run Senate may adopt it as well.
Neither chamber is expected to supply the two-thirds majority required to override a veto, which Trump has threatened.
The declaration is also being challenged in federal courts, where a host of Democratic-led states such as California have sued to overturn Trump’s order. The nonprofit group Public Citizen is suing on behalf of land owners whose land would be bisected by a border wall.
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ed Markey said he expects a court fight, with “a very strong case that this is an unconstitutional action by the president.”
“I think Republicans should be very, very cautious in allowing for President Trump to take this authority, because it would lead to a very significant diminution of the authority of the Congress in the future when any president, Democrat or Republican, seek to act,” Markey said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Pressure is mounting from both sides on Republicans in the Senate, where Democrats need four Republican defections. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is likely to support a resolution of disapproval, she told Anchorage TV station KTUU on Friday.
"If it's what I have seen right now, I will support the resolution to disapprove." Murkowski said.
Trump warned Republicans off that path with a tweet on Monday: “I hope our great Republican Senators don’t get led down the path of weak and ineffective Border Security. Without strong Borders, we don’t have a Country — and the voters are on board with us. Be strong and smart, don’t fall into the Democrats ‘trap’ of Open Borders and Crime!"
Texas Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro, the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and vice chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, filed the resolution to block the emergency declaration. He also targeted Republicans in a tweet Monday:
“The #FakeEmergency goes beyond partisanship. Democrats & Republicans alike swore an oath to protect & defend the Constitution. It’s time to uphold that promise & protect the separation of powers just as our Founders intended."
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.