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Protests Slam Trump’s Declaration as States Ready Lawsuit

Protesters around the U.S. spent Presidents Day rallying against President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration as at least a dozen states planned a lawsuit to block Trump’s latest ploy to fund his long-promised border wall.

 

“Trump is the national emergency!” chanted a group of hundreds lined up Monday at the White House fence while Trump was out of town in Florida. Some held up large letters spelling out “stop power grab.” In downtown Fort Worth, Texas, a small group carried signs with messages including “no wall! #FakeTrumpEmergency.”

 

Meanwhile, Colorado and New Mexico became the latest states to join with California and other states in challenging the declaration to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Gov. Jared Polis and Attorney General Phil Weiser, both Democrats, said in a statement that the wall project could divert tens of millions of dollars from military construction projects in Colorado.

 

A crowd of more than 100 protesters gathered in frigid weather at the state Capitol in Denver roared with approval when Weiser told them his office was joining the multi-state lawsuit.

 

“There is zero real-world basis for the emergency declaration, and there will be no wall,” New Mexico Gov. Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, said in a statement.

 

Organized by the liberal group MoveOn and others, Monday’s demonstrations took the occasion of the Presidents Day holiday to assail Trump’s proclamation as undemocratic and anti-immigrant.

 

Kelly Quirk, of the progressive group Soma Action, told a gathering of dozens in Newark, New Jersey that “democracy demands” saying “no more” to Trump.

 

“There are plenty of real emergencies to invest our tax dollars in,” said Quirk.

 

In New York City, hundreds of people at a Manhattan park chanted “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here” as several of them held up letters spelling out, “IMPEACH.”

 

There were some counter-protesters, including in Washington, where there was a brief scuffle in the crowd.

 

Trump’s declaration Friday shifts billions of dollars from military construction to the border. The move came after Congress didn’t approve as much as Trump wanted for the wall, which the Republican considers a national security necessity.

 

His emergency proclamation calls the border “a major entry point for criminals, gang members, and illicit narcotics.”

 

Illegal border crossings have declined from a high of 1.6 million in 2000. But 50,000 families are now entering illegally each month, straining the U.S. asylum system and border facilities.

 

Trump’s critics have argued he undercut his own rationale for the emergency declaration by saying he “didn’t need to do this” but wanted to get the wall built faster than he otherwise could. In announcing the move, he said he anticipated the legal challenges.

 

“President Trump declared a national emergency in order to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on his border wall obsession,” Manar Waheed of the American Civil Liberties Union told protesters rallying in a Washington park before heading to the nearby White House fence. The ACLU has announced its intention to sue Trump over the issue.

 

Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of the left-leaning Center for Popular Democracy, said the president had undertaken to “steal money that we desperately need to build a country of our dreams so that he can build a monument to racism along the border.”

 

At one point during the rally, a counter-protester walked through the crowd toting a sign saying “finish the wall” on one side and “protect the poor” on the other. Another man snatched his sign from him, sparking a short scuffle.

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Trump the Pundit Handicaps 2020 Democratic Contenders

Kamala Harris had the best campaign roll-out. Amy Klobuchar’s snowy debut showed grit. Elizabeth Warren’s opening campaign video was a bit odd. Take it from an unlikely armchair pundit sizing up the 2020 Democratic field: President Donald Trump.

In tweets, public remarks and private conversations, Trump is making clear he is closely following the campaign to challenge him on the ballot. Facing no serious primary opponent of his own — at least so far — Trump is establishing himself as an in-their-face observer of the Democratic Party’s nominating process — and no will be surprised to find that he’s not being coy about weighing in.

Presidents traditionally ignore their potential opponents as long as possible to maintain their status as an incumbent floating above the contenders who are auditioning for a job they already inhabit.

Not Trump. He’s eager to shape the debate, sow discord and help position himself for the general election. It’s just one more norm to shatter, and a risky bet that his acerbic politics will work to his advantage once again.

This is the president whose 240-character blasts and penchant for insults made mincemeat of his 2016 Republican rivals. And Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, said the president aims to use Twitter again this time to “define his potential opponent and impact the Democrat primary debate.”

 

 But often Trump’s commentary reflects a peculiar sense of disengagement from the events of the day, as though he were a panelist on the cable news shows he records and watches, rather than their prime subject of discussion. He puts the armchair in armchair punditry. In an interview with The New York Times, Trump assessed Harris’ campaign like a talk show regular, declaring her opening moves as having a “better crowd, better enthusiasm” than the other Democrats.

Crowd size was also at play last week when he held a rally in El Paso, Texas, that was countered a few blocks away by one led by former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a potential 2020 candidate.

“So we have let’s say 35,000 people tonight, and he has 200 people, 300 people,” Trump observed, wildly exaggerating both numbers. “Not too good. In fact, what I would do is, I would say, that may be the end of his presidential bid.”

When Sen. Klobuchar announced her candidacy on a frigid day in her home state of Minnesota, Trump anointed her with a nickname of sorts, and a benign one at that: “By the end of her speech she looked like a Snowmanlwoman]!”

Inside the West Wing and in conversations with outside allies, Trump has been workshopping other attempts to imprint his new adversaries with lasting labels, according to two people on whom the president has tested out the nicknames. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations with the president. He is also testing out lines of attack in public rallies, exploring vulnerabilities he could use against them should they advance to the general election.

No candidate has drawn more commentary and criticism from Trump than Sen. Warren, the liberal Massachusetts Democrat. Warren’s past claims of Native American heritage prompted Trump to brand her “Pocahontas” and he has shown no qualms about deploying racially charged barbs harking back to some of the nation’s darkest abuses.

Wading into a Twitter frenzy over an Instagram video Warren posted after she announced her exploratory committee while sharing a beer with her husband at their kitchen table, Trump jeered: “Best line in the Elizabeth Warren beer catastrophe is, to her husband, `Thank you for being here. I’m glad you’re here’ It’s their house, he’s supposed to be there!”

“If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to by me as Pocahontas, did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash!” Trump tweeted.

Even in the midst of the partial government shutdown, those tweets mocking Warren were widely joked about by White House staff weary from the protracted closure, according to one aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations. The person said the president repeatedly ridiculed Warren’s video in private conversations with aides and outside advisers.

Attention from Trump can drive up fundraising and elevate a candidate above a crowded field. But responding to attacks also distracts from a candidate’s message.

Trump’s rivals in the 2016 GOP primary learned that lesson as he bedeviled them with name-calling. Trump goaded Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida into making a thinly veiled insult of his manhood that quickly backfired, and weeks later he sucked Texas Sen. Ted Cruz into a brutal back-and-forth about an insult he had leveled at Cruz’s wife.

“The president has an ability to use social media to define his opponents and influence the primary debate in a way no sitting president before him has,” said former White House spokesman Raj Shah. “I expect him to take full advantage.”

On Friday, hours after declaring a national emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump tweeted a video made by a supporter that featured the president’s Democratic critics in Congress. Harris, Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker were shown sitting dourly during the State of the Union address, set to the R.E.M. ballad “Everybody Hurts.”

The mocking video may have been taken down later in the day after a copyright complaint by the band, and re-cut using Trump-supporter Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” But the message to Trump’s would-be 2020 rivals, and people girding for another wild presidential cycle, remained anchored to the lyrics of that R.E.M. song: “Hold on.”

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Ex-FBI Official: Rosenstein "Absolutely" Backed Trump Probes

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe says Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was “absolutely” supportive of the decision to launch investigations into whether President Donald Trump was inappropriately aligned with the Russians or whether he had obstructed justice.

 

McCabe also said in an interview aired Sunday on “60 Minutes” that the FBI had good reason to investigate whether Trump was in league with Russia following the May 2017 firing of FBI Director James Comey.

McCabe cited what he said were Trump’s efforts to publicly undermine the investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment Sunday night.

In excerpts released last week by CBS News, McCabe also described a conversation about invoking the Constitution to remove Trump from office.

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Trump: ‘Nothing Funny’ about Jokes Aimed at Him

Can U.S. President Donald Trump laugh at a joke at his own expense?

Not if it’s coming from NBC’s satirical Saturday Night Live show and Trump impersonator Alec Baldwin, who has periodically contorted his face and snarled his way to fame mocking the 45th president.

On Saturday night Baldwin was jabbing at Trump again, a day after Trump declared a national emergency to divert money in the government’s budget to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border without congressional authorization.

“You all see why I gotta fake this emergency, right? I have to because I want to,” Baldwin said as the sketch show opened. “It’s really simple.

We have a problem. Drugs are coming into this country through no wall.”

But Baldwin as Trump said, “Wall works, wall makes safe. You don’t have to be smart to understand that  in fact it’s even easier to understand if you’re not that smart.”

The fake president mimicked Trump’s singsong voice during part of his Friday news conference announcing the national emergency.

“I’ll immediately be sued and the ruling will not go in my favor and then it will end up in the Supreme Court and then I’ll call my buddy [Brett] Kavanaugh (a justice appointed by Trump) and I’ll say, It’s time to repay the Donny,’ and he’ll say, new phone, who dis?'” Baldwin joked.

But by then, Baldwin-as-Trump said, a report by special counsel Robert Mueller, who has been investigating links between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia, “will be released, crumbling my house of cards and I can plead insanity and do a few months in the puzzle factory and my personal hell of playing president will finally be over.”

The show also lampooned the results of Trump’s recent annual physical exam.

“I’m still standing 6-7, 185 pounds — shredded,” Baldwin said, although Trump actually is several centimeters shorter and weighs more than 110 kilograms, defined by U.S. health standards as obese.

Trump gave the sketch and the show a thumbs down.

“Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC!” Trump said on Twitter. “Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!”

“THE RIGGED AND CORRUPT MEDIA IS THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!” he tweeted minutes later.

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Trump’s National Emergency Declaration Rocks Washington

Washington has been plunged into a power struggle between the executive and legislative branches of government — one that America’s third branch, the courts, ultimately may resolve. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration aims to jumpstart wall construction along the U.S.-Mexico border that Congress did not authorize.

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Nauert Withdraws From Consideration for UN Post

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert on Saturday said she has withdrawn her name from consideration for the post of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

In December, President Donald Trump had announced he was picking Nauert to fill the vacancy caused when Nikki Haley stepped down from that position, leaving at the end of 2018.

Media reports said late Saturday Nauert has withdrawn due to complications surrounding her employment of a nanny who was in the country legally, but not legally allowed to work. 

According to The Washington Post, the nanny had worked for the Nauerts for 10 years and was paid in cash, but she had not paid taxes.  When the family discovered that taxes had not been paid, The Post reported, the Nauerts demanded that the tax bill be paid. 

Earlier Saturday, before news of the the nanny complication emerged, Nauert said, in a statement, “I am grateful to President Trump and Secretary (Mike) Pompeo for the trust they placed in me for considering me for the position of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. However, the past two months have been grueling for my family and therefore it is in the best interest of my family that I withdraw my name from consideration.

“Serving in the Administration for the past two years has been one of the highest honors of my life and I will always be grateful to the President, the Secretary, and my colleagues at the State Department for their support,” Nauert said in a statement released by the State Department Saturday.

In the statement, Secretary of State Pompeo praised Nauert for performing her duties with “unequalled excellence,” and wished her the best “in whatever role she finds herself.” 

In nominating Nauert, Trump said she was “very talented, very smart, very quick. And I think she’s going to be respected by all.”

 

Broadcast journalist

Nauert joined the State Department in April 2017 after a career in broadcast journalism, first serving under former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and then under Pompeo. In addition to serving as spokesperson, Nauert also served as acting undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs from March to October of this year. 

 

She came to State from Fox News, where she co-anchored Fox and Friends, the morning program that Trump says he watches regularly. The president’s other recent hires from Fox News include White House communications chief Bill Shine and national security adviser John Bolton. 

 

Nauert likely would have faced tough questioning during her Senate confirmation hearings about her apparent lack of diplomatic or policymaking experience. 

 

The Wilson Center’s Aaron David Miller said Nauert had a different profile from past U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations. 

 

“I think Heather Nauert is smart. She is a quick study. She will learn the brief. But, I think it [the U.S. ambassador job] is not going to be what it was under Nikki Haley, which was a serious competitor under a vacuum at the NSC [National Security Council] and at the State Department under Tillerson.” 

 

Miller, who advised several secretaries of state under Republican and Democratic administrations, said Haley took advantage of the “empty space” created by media-averse Tillerson to stake out positions on a whole range of foreign policy issues, and that was not likely going to be the case with Nauert. 

Smaller role seen

 

“Heather Nauert is not going to be a big-time player in the deliberations on substance in the administration,” he said. “I doubt, on an issue like Syria, unless it pertains to the U.N., that the president is going to call her up and say, ‘What do you think?’ ” 

 

Both Trump and Pompeo have been highly critical of the United Nations and other multilateral institutions, with Pompeo noting in a Brussels speech earlier this week that “multilateralism has become viewed as an end unto itself. The more treaties we sign, the safer we supposedly are. The more bureaucrats we have, the better the job gets done.” 

 

During Nauert’s twice-weekly briefings at the State Department and her own trips, she has shown a passion for human rights issues. While serving with Tillerson, Nauert took trips on her own initiative, visiting Myanmar and Bangladesh last year to meet with Rohingya refugees. 

 

She also visited Israel and strongly defended Trump’s controversial decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. 

 

Nauert is a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and Mount Vernon College in Washington. The 48-year-old is a wife and mother of two young sons, and was born in Rockford, Ill. 

 

Steve Herman at the White House, and Cindy Saine and Nike Ching at the State Department contributed to this report.

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Gone in a New York Minute: How the Amazon Deal Fell Apart

In early November, word began to leak that Amazon was serious about choosing New York to build a giant new campus. The city was eager to lure the company and its thousands of high-paying tech jobs, offering billions in tax incentives and lighting the Empire State Building in Amazon orange.

Even Governor Andrew Cuomo got in on the action: “I’ll change my name to Amazon Cuomo if that’s what it takes,” he joked at the time.

Then Amazon made it official: It chose the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens to build a $2.5 billion campus that could house 25,000 workers, in addition to new offices planned for northern Virginia. Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Democrats who have been political adversaries for years, trumpeted the decision as a major coup after edging out more than 230 other proposals.

But what they didn’t expect was the protests, the hostile public hearings and the disparaging tweets that would come in the next three months, eventually leading to Amazon’s dramatic Valentine’s Day breakup with New York.

Immediately after Amazon’s Nov. 12 announcement, criticism started to pour in. The deal included $1.5 billion in special tax breaks and grants for the company, but a closer look at the total package revealed it to be worth at least $2.8 billion. Some of the same politicians who had signed a letter to woo Amazon were now balking at the tax incentives.

“Offering massive corporate welfare from scarce public resources to one of the wealthiest corporations in the world at a time of great need in our state is just wrong,” said New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris and New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, Democrats who represent the Long Island City area, in a joint statement.

The next day, CEO Jeff Bezos was on the cover of The New York Post in a cartoon-like illustration, hanging out of a helicopter, holding money bags in each hand, with cash billowing above the skyline. “QUEENS RANSOM,” the headline screamed. The New York Times editorial board, meanwhile, called the deal a “bad bargain” for the city: “We won’t know for 10 years whether the promised 25,000 jobs will materialize,” it said.

Anti-Amazon rallies were planned for the next week. Protesters stormed a New York Amazon bookstore on the day after Thanksgiving and then went to a rally on the steps of a courthouse near the site of the new headquarters in the pouring rain. Some held cardboard boxes with Amazon’s smile logo turned upside down.

In this Nov. 14, 2018 file photo, protesters hold up anti-Amazon signs during a coalition rally and press conference of elected officials, community organizations and unions opposing Amazon headquarters getting subsidies to locate in New York.

They had a long list of grievances: the deal was done secretively; Amazon, one of the world’s most valuable companies, didn’t need nearly $3 billion in tax incentives; rising rents could push people out of the neighborhood; and the company was opposed to unionization.

The helipad kept coming up, too: Amazon, in its deal with the city, was promised it could build a spot to land a helicopter on or near the new offices.

At the first public hearing in December, which turned into a hostile, three-hour interrogation of two Amazon executives by city lawmakers, the helipad was mentioned more than a dozen times. The image of high-paid executives buzzing by a nearby low-income housing project became a symbol of corporate greed.

Queens residents soon found postcards from Amazon in their mailboxes, trumpeting the benefits of the project. Gianaris sent his own version, calling the company “Scamazon” and urging people to call Bezos and tell him to stay in Seattle.

At a second city council hearing in January, Amazon’s vice president for public policy, Brian Huseman, subtly suggested that perhaps the company’s decision to come to New York could be reversed.

“We want to invest in a community that wants us,” he said.

Then came a sign that Amazon’s opponents might actually succeed in derailing the deal: In early February, Gianaris was tapped for a seat on a little-known state panel that often has to approve state funding for big economic development projects. That meant if Amazon’s deal went before the board, Gianaris could kill it.

“I’m not looking to negotiate a better deal,” Gianaris said at the time. “I am against the deal that has been proposed.”

Cuomo had the power to block Gianaris’ appointment, but he didn’t indicate whether he would take that step.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s own doubts about the project started to show. On Feb. 8, The Washington Post reported that the company was having second thoughts about the Queens location.

On Wednesday, Cuomo brokered a meeting with four top Amazon executives and the leaders of three unions critical of the deal. The union leaders walked away with the impression that the parties had an agreed upon framework for further negotiations, said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union.

“We had a good conversation. We talked about next steps. We shook hands,” Appelbaum said.

An Amazon representative did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

The final blow landed Thursday, when Amazon announced on a blog post that it was backing out, surprising the mayor, who had spoken to an Amazon executive Monday night and received “no indication” that the company would bail.

Amazon still expected the deal to be approved, according to a source familiar with Amazon’s thinking, but that the constant criticism from politicians didn’t make sense for the company to grow there.

“I was flabbergasted,” De Blasio said. “Why on earth after all of the effort we all put in would you simply walk away?”

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First Republican Takes Steps to Challenge Trump in Primaries

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld said Friday that he was launching a presidential exploratory committee, making him the first Republican to take steps to challenge U.S. President Donald Trump for the party’s nomination in 2020.

Trump’s popularity among Republicans remains high in his third year in office. While he is not expected to face significant hurdles in his bid for a second nomination, it is rare for an incumbent president to face a notable primary challenge, with the last being George H.W. Bush.

Weld, 73, is not well-known nationally but is well-respected among officials in the GOP establishment.

He was first elected governor of Massachusetts in 1990, defeating a conservative Democratic candidate. Weld became one of the state’s more popular governors, being elected twice by comfortable margins.

While in office, he followed traditional Republican fiscal policies of trying to keep taxes and government spending low, but embraced liberal positions on abortion and gay rights. 

Nation in ‘grave peril’

In announcing his presidential aspirations Friday in Bedford, N.H., Weld said the country was in “grave peril” and described Trump as a “schoolyard bully.”

“I encourage those of you who are watching the current administration nervously, but saying nothing, to stand up and speak out when lines are crossed in dangerous ways,” Weld said.

Weld said Trump was “a president whose priorities are skewed to the promotion of himself rather than toward the good of the country.”

Asked to comment on Weld’s campaign, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders responded: “Who?”

Weld tried to win a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts in 1996 but lost to John Kerry. He later moved to New York and unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for governor in 2005.

In 2016, Weld joined the Libertarian Party, serving as running mate to the party’s 2016 candidate, Gary Johnson. The duo received about 4.5 million votes, or a little more than 3 percent of the national popular vote. Weld returned to the Republican Party this year, saying it was the best place from which to challenge Trump.

Several other Republicans are also reportedly considering challenging Trump in the primaries, including former Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. More than a dozen Democrats have already announced their intentions to run in the Democratic primaries or are reported to be considering candidacies.

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump Declares Emergency With Faulty Claims

President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency at the southern border while acknowledging that rapid construction of a wall is not a necessity, but rather his preference. In justifying the extraordinary step, he brushed aside his administration’s conclusions that drugs come into the country primarily at official points of entry, not over remote territory that a barrier could seal off.

Trump invoked what his aides called the “common authority” of presidents to take unilateral action through the declaration of a national emergency. But there’s nothing common about a president taking command of billions of dollars without the approval of Congress to pay for a campaign promise.

“I could do the wall over a longer period of time,” Trump said, raising questions about why he sees an emergency unfolding today. “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.”

At a Rose Garden news conference, Trump also claimed progress on wall construction that hasn’t occurred.

A look at some of his comments:

TRUMP: “I’ve built a lot of wall. I have a lot of money, and I’ve built a lot of wall.”

THE FACTS: He’s built no new miles of wall, lacking the money. His new construction to date has replaced existing barriers.

This month marks the start of construction of 14 miles (22 kilometers) of fencing in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, the first lengthening of barrier in his presidency. That’s from money approved by Congress a year ago, most of which was for renovating existing barrier.

Money approved by Congress in the new deal to avert another government shutdown would cover about 55 more miles (88 km).

He has often portrayed his wall, falsely, as largely complete, to a point where “Finish the wall” has become his rallying cry, replacing “Build the wall.” That masks a distinct lack of progress in physically sealing the border — a frustration that is now prompting him to find money outside the normal channels of congressional appropriation. Trump inherited about 650 miles (1,050 km) of physical border barrier from previous administrations.

TRUMP, on past presidents declaring national emergencies: “There’s rarely been a problem. They sign it; nobody cares.I guess they weren’t very exciting.But nobody cares. … And the people that say we create precedent — well, what do you have? Fifty-six? There are a lot of times — well, that’s creating precedent.And many of those are far less important than having a border.”

THE FACTS: Those declarations were rarely as consequential, and that’s precisely why they were mostly uncontroversial. He’s roughly correct about the numbers. But past declarations did not involve the unilateral spending of substantial sums of money that Congress — which holds the power of the purse — did not approve.

Emergency declarations by Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were overwhelmingly for the purpose of addressing crises that emerged abroad. Many blocked foreign interests or terrorist-linked entities from access to funds. Some prohibited certain imports from or investments in countries associated with human rights abuses.

Trump’s number resembles findings from the Brennan Center for Justice, which has tracked 58 emergency declarations back to 1978.

“It’s extremely rare for a president to declare a national emergency in a bid to fund domestic construction projects, particularly one that Congress has explicitly refused to fund,” said Andrew Boyle, an attorney in the national security program at the center. “The ones that former presidents declared are of a different sort.”

Obama declared a national emergency in July 2011 to impose sanctions on transnational criminal groups, blocking any American property interests and freezing their assets, authorizing financial sanctions against anyone aiding them and barring their members from entering the United States. It authorized sanctions against criminal cartels in Mexico, Japan, Italy and Eastern Europe. It did not direct billions in spending by the U.S. treasury.

TRUMP: “And a big majority of the big drugs — the big drug loads — don’t go through ports of entry.They can’t go through ports of entry.You can’t take big loads because you have people — we have some very capable people; the Border Patrol, law enforcement — looking.

TRUMP: “We have tremendous amounts of drugs flowing into our country, much of it coming from the southern border.When you look and when you listen to politicians — in particular, certain Democrats — they say it all comes through the port of entry. It’s wrong.It’s wrong. It’s just a lie. It’s all a lie.”

THE FACTS: His own administration says illicit drugs come mainly through ports of entry. He has persistently contradicted his officials — never mind Democrats — on this point. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said in a 2018 report that the most common trafficking technique by transnational criminal organizations is to hide drugs in passenger vehicles or tractor-trailers as they drive into the U.S. at official crossings. They also use buses, cargo trains and tunnels, the report says, citing smuggling methods that would not be choked off by a border wall.

“Only a small percentage” of heroin seized by U.S. authorities comes across on territory between ports of entry, the agency says, and the same is true of drugs generally. The great majority of heroin, methamphetamines, cocaine and fentanyl is seized at ports of entry. Marijuana is one exception; significant quantities are seized between entry ports.

Even if a wall could stop all drugs from Mexico, America’s drug problem would be far from over. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 40 percent of opioid deaths in 2016 involved prescription painkillers. Those drugs are made by pharmaceutical companies. Some feed the addiction of people who have prescriptions; others are stolen and sold on the black market. Moreover, illicit versions of powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl have come to the U.S. from China, not Mexico.

TRUMP: “Take a look at our federal prison population. See how many of them, percentage-wise, are illegal aliens. Just see. Go ahead and see. ”

THE FACTS: About 40 percent of the people who entered federal prison in 2014 were foreigners, according to the most recent Bureau of Justice Statistics. The vast majority of the foreigners (20,842 of 28,821) were being held for immigration violations, not violent or property crimes. It’s not clear how many were in the country illegally. The federal prison population is not a solid yardstick of immigrant crime because it represents only 10 percent of the overall prison population of the U.S. Most people convicted of crimes are in state prison.

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