President Donald Trump issued the first veto of his presidency on Friday, March 15, overruling Congress to protect the emergency declaration for border wall funding.

The White House announced: “Moments ago, President Trump signed a VETO of the resolution introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to block the national emergency declaration for our crisis on the southern border.”

Surrounded by law enforcement officials as well as the parents of children killed by people in the country illegally, Trump maintained that he is not through fighting for his signature campaign promise.

“Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution,” Trump said, “and I have the duty to veto it.”

A dozen defecting Republicans joined Senate Democrats in approving the joint resolution on Thursday, which capped a week of confrontation with the White House as both parties in Congress strained to exert their power in new ways. It is unlikely that Congress will have the two-thirds majority required to override Trump’s veto, though House Democrats have suggested they would try nonetheless.

Trump wants to use the emergency order to divert billions of federal dollars earmarked for defense spending toward the southern border wall. It still faces several legal challenges from Democratic state attorneys general and environmental groups who argue the emergency declaration was unconstitutional.

President Donald Trump signs the first veto of his presidency in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, March 15, 2019, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP Photo)

Those cases could block the president from diverting extra money to barrier construction for months or longer. The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed one of the cases, said the veto is meaningless.

“Congress has rejected the president’s declaration, and now the courts will be the ultimate arbiter of its legality. We look forward to seeing him in court and to the shellacking that he will receive at the hands of an independent judiciary,” said Executive Director Anthony Romero.

President Trump maintained that the situation on the southern border is “a tremendous national emergency,” adding, “our immigration system is stretched beyond the breaking point.”

The president said,  “The current situation at the southern border presents a border security and humanitarian crisis that threatens core national security interests and constitutes a national emergency.”

The 12 GOP senators, including the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney of Utah, joined the dissent over the emergency declaration order that would enable the president to seize billions of dollars for the wall that Congress intended be spent elsewhere.

President Donald Trump speaks about border security in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, March 15, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks about border security in the Oval Office of the White House,on March 15, 2019, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP Photo)

Thursday’s vote was the first direct challenge to the 1976 National Emergencies Act, just as a Wednesday vote on Yemen was the first time Congress invoked the decades-old War Powers Act to try to rein in a president. That resolution seeking to end U.S. backing for the Saudi Arabian-led coalition fighting in Yemen was approved in the aftermath of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and is expected to be the subject of the president’s second veto.

Chart shows presidential vetoes since 1901. (AP Graphic/Kevin S. Vineys)
Chart shows presidential vetoes since 1901. (AP Graphic/Kevin S. Vineys)

On Friday, President Trump said he had sympathy for Republicans who voted against him and emphasized that he never twisted the arms of lawmakers, because he knew there were not enough votes to override the veto.

“Look, they were doing what they have to do,” President Trump said, insisting he “put no pressure” on lawmakers to vote against the resolution.

Speaking in the Oval Office, the president cited “thousands and thousands” of gang arrests and said many of the asylum-seekers released into the U.S. were “stone-cold killers.” He noted a spike in the number of people coming to the border to claim asylum.

President Trump delivered the national emergency declaration last month, allowing him to tap about $3.6 billion for the wall by shuffling money from military projects.

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