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Press Release

Brennan Center Calls Trump’s Emergency Declaration a “Grotesque Abuse of Power”

Emergency powers are not for circumventing the will of Congress on questions of policy.

February 15, 2019

Contact: Mireya “Mia" Navarro,, 646–925–8760                         

New York, NY – In response to President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law called on Congress to vote to terminate the emergency and amend the National Emergencies Act to prevent the president’s abuse of authority.

“The president’s declaration is a grotesque abuse of power,” said Elizabeth Goitein, one of the country’s leading experts on presidential emergency powers and co-director of Brennan’s Liberty and National Security Program. “Emergency powers are for emergencies, not for circumventing the will of Congress on questions of policy.”

The National Emergencies Act creates an expedited procedure for Congress to vote on a resolution to end an emergency declaration, which would have the power of law.

“Both houses must give the resolution an up-or-down vote, which will force members to go on the record with respect to the president’s power grab,” Goitein said. “For the long term, Congress should amend the National Emergencies Act to bolster checks and balances now, before Trump declares the next fake emergency to get around the democratic process.”

On the inevitable court challenges to the declaration, Goitein said: “Judges will be weighing the copious evidence that this so-called emergency is actually a ploy to get around Congress against the broad discretion the National Emergencies Act gives the president. Regardless of the outcome, Congress should learn its lesson: gifting presidents with limitless discretion and hoping they won’t abuse it is taking dangerous risks with our democracy.”

Goitein, Brennan Center President Michael Waldman, and other Brennan experts are available for comment. 


Related links: 

Brennan Center’s Emergency Powers Guide

Brennan Center’s Emergency Powers Symposium CSPAN video:

Elizabeth Goitein’s article in The Atlantic w/video: