Rep. Andy Barr is working closely on legal strategy with the White House counsel as President Donald Trump fights to build his U.S.-Mexico border wall.
The House and Senate voted to block Trump’s emergency declaration, and the president vetoed the measure Friday. The House plans to attempt to override the veto March 26, but is likely to fall short.
Barr said he met with Trump in the Oval Office two weeks ago and offered to lead a group of members of Congress to defend Trump’s February border declaration in court. Barr noted that’s where the controversy was likely to end up.
The congressman found Trump appreciated his offer to help and summoned the White House counsel into the Oval Office “right then and there.”
Barr said his office and the White House counsel are “working together right now to prepare compare notes and we’re going to lead an amicus brief in support of the president’s position in the litigation.” Barr would not answer further questions about the arrangement and the White House did not immediately return requests for comment.
Still, Barr said he does think Congress has delegated too much authority to the president and supports efforts to limit the executive branch’s power to declare emergencies.
Barr has been an enthusiastic supporter of Trump. Trump repaid the favor in the closing days of the 2018 election, holding a rally in Kentucky to benefit Barr, who faced a tough reelection challenge from Democrat Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot.
McGrath has been sharply critical of Trump’s emergency declaration and his plan to use military money to help pay for the wall. “This ‘emergency’ money taken from the defense budget negatively impacts the quality of life for military families,” she tweeted last month.. She has not said if she plans to challenge Barr next year.
Barr made his comments Tuesday on WVLK News Talk 590 in Lexington. During Barr’s radio appearance, host Jack Pattie read an email from a caller who said he was “done with Rand Paul’ because Paul was one of 12 Republican senators last week to vote against Trump on the emergency declaration.
Barr said he is friendly with and supports Paul, a Kentucky Republican, but they have a few differences of opinion — including on the president’s authority to declare an emergency.
He said he shared Paul’s concern about the separation of powers and that he believed that Congress had given too much authority to the executive branch., but added, ”I think Senator Paul respectfully is wrong about the constitutionality of the executive order.”
Barr said Congress gave the president the authority to reprogram military dollars in the event of a national emergency. Trump wants to use that money to help pay for the wall.
The congressman maintained there is a national emergency at the border, citing illegal crossings, drugs and human trafficking.
“The crisis is growing,” he said, “and we need to fix it.”