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Congress Blocks Trump's Order To Build A Wall. He Promises A Veto


And we have a lot to talk about this morning with Adam Kennedy who is on the line. He is President Trump's deputy director of communications. Adam, thanks for being here.

ADAM KENNEDY: Thanks for having me on this morning.

GREENE: I wanted to start with the news from New Zealand. Does the president have any reaction to what we're seeing this morning as this death toll has just continued to rise and that country seems just in a state of real pain right now?

KENNEDY: It's truly a complete tragedy. We're all monitoring the situation. And when the president has a statement to make, he'll make it to the American people.

GREENE: Are we expecting that sometime today?

KENNEDY: And I'm not going to get ahead of it.

GREENE: OK, let me shift to the news we've been following in Washington because, obviously, we'll be paying close attention to what's happening in New Zealand. But there was a pretty significant vote in the Senate yesterday. There were 12 Republicans who joined Democrats blocking the president's emergency declaration at the southern border. And many of the Republicans said this was not about border security, I mean, that they agree with them here; this was about executive power. Why are they wrong?

KENNEDY: Well, I think they're wrong because what, essentially, they're saying is that the Congress can give the president certain powers. Congress can then tell the president to enforce certain laws. First the president tries to use those powers to enforce those laws. They're going to vote against him. It's like giving somebody a hammer, telling them to build a house and then being upset when they use the hammer. It doesn't make a lot of sense.

GREENE: Although, many in Congress, including Republicans, say it's not about who has a hammer. It's who has the power to fund policy. And some Republicans have pointed out that this is the first time that a national emergency has been declared in order to circumvent congressional power on funding and that this could give - set a precedent for Democratic presidents in the future. Is President Trump not worried about that precedent?

KENNEDY: This isn't the president creating new laws. He's not changing existing laws. All he's doing is providing the resources law enforcement needs to enforce our immigration laws at the border. Again, he's not creating anything new. He's purely following what Congress has set out and told him to do, which is enforce our immigration laws.

GREENE: Let me just get to some of the concerns of Republicans. I want to play the voice of Republican Rob Portman of Ohio who voted against the president here.


ROB PORTMAN: The use of national emergency powers to circumvent Congress's explicit decision on funding is unprecedented. No president's ever used what's called the National Emergencies Act in this way.

GREENE: I know you're saying the president does not feel like he's creating new laws, but he is doing something, as Rob Portman just said, that is unprecedented. Why is he not worried about the president - the precedent that this might set?

KENNEDY: Previous presidents have used their executive authority - wide-ranging executive authority to literally create new laws out of almost whole cloth. The president is absolutely not doing that. He's not changing one law about our immigration system. All he's doing is providing resources. I don't see how that's a serious expansion or change at all in what the president's prerogatives are.

GREENE: You don't see that this would open the door for a Democratic president to go through something very much like this, to say, I want funding for X; Congress doesn't give it to him or her; and then this gives that president, who might be a Democrat in the future, the right to say, well, then I'm going to get the funding anyway I want to?

KENNEDY: No, I think what this - I think the only president - precedent this sets is that when Congress passes a law, like our immigration laws, that the president is allowed to enforce them.

GREENE: I want to ask you about some of the - an argument that the president made to a conservative audience some days ago. He was sort of mocking the concern about setting precedent with this. And he said, the best way to stop Democrats in the future - Democratic presidents is to just make sure I win the election; that's the best way to stop that. I mean, he would only have one more term, at most. Is he suggesting the solution here is to make sure no Democrat is ever president in the future?

KENNEDY: I think what the president was expressing is that he's confident in re-election.

GREENE: Although, he was saying that the solution to this - to prevent Democratic presidents from using the precedent that's being set here is to make sure he's re-elected. I'm not sure I totally understand that that's a reaction to what Republican concerns have been expressed.

KENNEDY: I think the president has talked frequently with Republicans, both in private conversation and in public, about their concerns. He's laid out clearly where his authority comes from and why he's using it. The president understands why certain Republicans are upset about this decision. But at the end of the day, the only reason we're at this point is because Democrats have refused to provide the funding needed to protect our borders. The Democrats refused to listen to law enforcement and give them the resources they need.

GREENE: Although, these are Republicans who voted against the president here - not Democrats, we should say. So this is...

KENNEDY: Well, Democrats voted against the president as well. They voted against him at the House. They voted against him in the Senate. They refused to negotiate with him and provide him the resources he needed initially. So I'd say this absolutely originates with the Democratic Party.

GREENE: All right. Adam Kennedy is deputy communications director for the White House joining us this morning. Adam, thanks for your time as always.

KENNEDY: Thank you for having me on.

(SOUNDBITE OF MECCA:83'S "2AM SAMBA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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