Legal and practical hurdles would await Trump emergency declaration

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President Donald Trump could declare a national emergency to build his border wall — but federal law may not give him carte blanche to tap billions of dollars from the military budget.

Trump is set to address the nation on immigration from the Oval Office at 9 p.m. Tuesday, after days of speculation that he will invoke the National Emergencies Act to end the impasse with congressional Democrats that has triggered an 18-day partial government shutdown.

The fate of such an effort could depend on how courts interpret specific language in federal statutes governing use of the armed forces.

A formal declaration of a national emergency would allow some military construction funds to support “such use of the armed forces” as the crisis requires, according to Section 2808 of Title 10. After former President George W. Bush invoked the Emergencies Act following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the military used that authority for construction projects in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as to improve counterterrorism security on some stateside bases.

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