Radio Atlantic: State of Emergency

Listen to the legal expert Liza Goitein explain the history (and shocking extent) of presidential emergency powers.

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Last week, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to get funding for his wall. The act gave him the elevated power to move money around, but it was immediately met with lawsuits from 16 states. What exactly is a national emergency? Why is this one different? And just how far do a president’s emergency powers really go?

Alex Wagner speaks with Liza Goitein, a co-director of the Liberty and National Security program at the Brennan Center for Justice.

Months before the president’s announcement, Goitein looked into what powers presidents have in a national emergency. She wrote about her research in The Atlantic, describing more than 100 emergency powers that she said were “ripe for abuse,” adding that “this edifice of extraordinary powers has historically rested on the assumption that the president will act in the country’s best interest when using them.”

Listen for:

  • How the United States became a country with 31 active national emergencies, many of which are decades old

  • The extraordinary powers that President Trump could grant himself in a state of emergency

  • Whether legal challenges have a chance of stopping Trump from using those powers