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When It Comes To Her ‘Be Best’ Campaign, Melania Trump Says She’s Ignoring Critics, Moving Forward

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First Lady Melania Trump addresses attendees at the Family Online Safety Institute's November 15 annual conference at the United States Institute of Peace

WASHINGTON, November 15, 2018 — As she stepped up to the podium Thursday to address the Family Online Safety Institute’s annual conference, First Lady Melania Trump’s message for critics who say she should stay away from making the fight against cyberbullying her cause was a familiar one: I don’t care — do you?

While those words became closely associated with her visit to a detention center housing immigrant children who her husband’s administration had taken from their parents, they also summed up the message she delivered at Thursday’s conference.

Speaking at the outset of a panel featuring a number of student anti-cyberbullying advocates, Mrs. Trump addressed her detractors head-on by noting that the argument made by critics — that she shouldn’t be making cyberbullying a cause if she’s not willing to confront her husband about the Twitter-based name calling that has become a centerpiece of his political persona — was “not news or surprising” to her.

“I remain committed to tackling this topic because it will provide a better world for our children,” she said. “I hope that like I do, you will consider using their negative words as motivation to do all you can to bring awareness and understanding about responsible online behavior.”

Mrs. Trump said the conference’s theme, “Creating a Culture of Responsibility Online,” was what her “Be Best” anti-cyberbullying initiative is all about, adding that as a mother to a young son, she feels strongly that children should be taught about online safety and responsible habits from a young age.

Noting that students are routinely taught about showing respect for others in an in-person setting, she said that the question of how to translate those lessons into the digital world was one of the “challenging questions” she has faced as both a mother and as First Lady.

“Today’s technology provides people with a digital shield to hide behind, and being anonymous often takes the place of being caring and responsible, which can lead to children and adults feeling empowered to be unkind and at times, cruel,” she said.

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Andrew Feinberg is the Managing Editor and lead Washington Correspondent for Breakfast Media, and covers the White House, Capitol Hill, courts and regulatory agencies for BeltwayBreakfast and BroadbandBreakfast.com. He has written about policy and politics in the nation's capital since 2007.

White House

Trump Declares National Emergency After He Doesn’t Get His Way With Border Wall Funding

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President Trump announces that he'll be declaring a national emergency to attempt to fund his border wall in the White House Rose Garden on February 15, 2019 (Screenshot/C-SPAN)

WASHINGTON, February 15, 2019 — President Donald Trump on Friday reacted to Congress’ refusal to fully fund his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border by invoking emergency powers which purportedly allow him to “reprogram” federal funds without the consent of Congress.

“Today I am announcing several critical actions that my administration is taking.”

“We’re going to confront the [national security] crisis on our souther border,” Trump said, adding: “Everyone knows that walls work,” Trump said, citing Israel’s security barrier along the West Bank in the Middle East.

Trump called the idea that most illicit drugs come into the U.S. through ports of entry a “lie” despite statistics from his own Department of Homeland Security which show that most illicit drugs are seized at ports of entry.

“You can’t take big loads through ports of entry,” Trump said. He also suggested that human trafficking was not possible through ports of entry because border agents would see women who are “tied up in the trunk.”

“It’s all a big lie, it’s a big con game. You don’t have to be smart to know you put up a barrier… and people can’t come in until they go right or left and there’s no barrier.”

Trump said that his declaration was not a significant departure from precedent because other presidents had used the National Emergencies Act many times since 1976, when it was signed into law by then-President Gerald Ford.

“It’s been signed many times before. They sign it, nobody cares, I guess they weren’t very exciting.”

“We’re talking about an invasion of our country with drugs, with human traffickers, with all types of criminals and gangs,” he said, citing the existence of “Angel Moms,” a designation for mothers whose children were killed by undocumented immigrants. The designation was created by anti-immigrant group the Remembrance Project.

“So we’re going to be signing a national emergency,” Trump said, calling it “a great thing to do” because of the “invasion” from our country.

He also suggested that China’s drug policy was superior to the United States’ because China executes drug dealers.

Friday’s announcement, the likes of which Trump has openly considered for months, will undoubtedly set up a confrontation between the executive branch and both the legislative and judicial branches as Congress seeks to retain its own constitutional authority over the public purse.

While Congress has seen fit to appropriate only $1.375 billion for border barrier construction, White House Acting Chief of Staff and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said that the declaration will allow Trump to redirect three “pots of money.”

These include 600 million from the Justice Department’s asset forfeiture fund, $2.5 billion from the Pentagon’s anti-drug efforts, and $3.6 billion from the Pentagon’s construction budget, regardless of Congress’ express intentions.

A senior administration official said the total of $8 billion will allow Trump to order construction of approximately 234 miles of “bollard wall” barrier.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., blasted the president’s decision in a statement Thursday.

“Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that President Trump broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall,” they wrote

“It is yet another demonstration of President Trump’s naked contempt for the rule of law. This is not an emergency, and the president’s fear-mongering doesn’t make it one. He couldn’t convince Mexico, the American people or their elected representatives to pay for his ineffective and expensive wall, so now he’s trying an end-run around Congress in a desperate attempt to put taxpayers on the hook for it. The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities.”

Even some Republicans criticized the decision and suggested it exceeded the president’s constitutional authority.

“We have a crisis at our southern border, but no crisis justifies violating the Constitution,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in a statement Thursday.

Maine Senator Susan Collins noted in a statement that the National Emergencies Act, the 1976 law the White House is making use of, was intended for natural disasters or terror attacks.

“It is also of dubious constitutionality, and it will almost certainly be challenged in the courts,” she added.

Collins’ and Rubio’s convictions may be put to the test if Pelosi and House Democrats pass a so-called “resolution of disapproval” to terminate the emergency, which would force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to hold a vote on the resolution.

McConnell had previously spoken out against the idea of Trump declaring a national emergency on the border, but changed his tune Thursday after the president told him that he’d be signing the appropriations bill needed to stave off another government shutdown.

While Democrats warned that Trump’s invocation of the National Emergencies Act could create a precedent for future Democratic president to follow to take action on gun control or climate change, a senior administration official said Trump’s declaration “creates zero precedent.”

“The president is not waving a magic wand,” the official said, adding that the authority to declare a national emergency has been on the books since 1976.

When asked whether the president was claiming he had authority to ignore specific prohibitions against use of appropriated funds for wall construction, the official claimed that the use of reprogrammed funds in violation of Congress’ prohibition is permissible because those prohibitions do not apply to the previously-appropriated funds the president will be reprogramming.

“This is common authority,” he said.

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White House

McConnell Says Trump to Sign Funding Bill, Declare National Emergency at Border

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WASHINGTON, February 14, 2019 — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday said that President Donald Trump will sign legislation to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year, but will declare a national emergency to attempt to repurpose already-appropriated funds for his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In a statement, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that the president will both sign legislation to fund the government and “take other executive action – including a national emergency – to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border.”

“The President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country,” she added. 

The decision to declare a national emergency will set up a confrontation with members of Congress, some of whom are protective of the legislative branch’s power to appropriate funds.

Under the National Emergencies Act, if either the House or Senate passes a so-called resolution of disapproval, the other chamber must hold a vote on the same resolution.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that she “may” challenge the president’s forthcoming declaration in court.

“I’m going to review our options” she said, calling Trump’s decision “an end-run on Congress.”

Pelosi added that the current situation at the border “is not an emergency,” and cautioned that Trump could be setting a dangerous precedent.

“The precedent that the president is setting here is something that should be greeted with great unease and dismay by the Republicans and we’ll respond accordingly,” she said.

Sanders later told reporters that the White House is “very prepared” for a legal challenge, but said there shouldn’t be any.

“The president is doing his job, Congress should do theirs, she said.”

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Here we go again?

Sanders Won’t Rule Out Another Shutdown, Leaves Open Possibility of Compromise Bill Veto

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WASHINGTON, February 13, 2019 — President Donald Trump has not yet ruled out shutting down the government if he is unhappy with the compromise bill Congress plans to send him, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday.

“We want to see what the final piece of legislation looks like,” Sanders said when asked about several media reports which indicated that the president would sign the bill, which has been assembled over the past few weeks by a House-Senate conference committee. 

“It’s hard to say definitively whether or not the president is going to sign it until we know everything that’s in it.”

 Sanders admitted there were “some positive pieces” in the proposed appropriations bill, which provides just over a billion dollars for improvements to existing fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, but rejected the idea that funding levels in the bill are similar to the deal the president blew up in December after being criticized by right-wing talk radio hosts.

She also stressed that a shutdown is “not what [Trump] wants,” but attempted to preemptively blame Democrats for any shutdown the president might cause by refusing to sign the bipartisan legislation.

“If [a shutdown] happens again, that will be because the Democrats completely failed to do their job and work with the president to secure our border.”

A decision by the president to veto the compromise legislation could lead the Congress to attempt to override that veto. 

But the president has indicated that rather than veto the funding, he may take the constitutionally-questionable route of using executive authority to “reprogram” money appropriated for other purposes to build his wall, which was a centerpiece of his 2016 presidential campaign but is overwhelmingly opposed by a majority of Americans.

Still, Sanders dismissed the suggestion that by attempting to reprogram already-appropriated funds — a decision which would almost certainly be challenged in the courts — the president was planning to “go it alone.”

“Most people across the country know that we need border security and the biggest responsibility the president has is to protect the people of this country,” she said. “I think he’s got the support of Americans all over this country and I’d hardly say that’s going alone.”

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