St. Thomas — It’s not shaping up to be a quiet weekend. Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, the Democratic representative serving the U.S. Virgin Islands sent a charged letter to President Trump on Friday.
The stunning rebuke comes just days after reports surfaced that the Trump administration had been briefed on a plan that would dip into funding set aside by the Army Corps of Engineers for projects that included recovery from natural disasters in places like the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, California and other states and U.S. territories.
The report cites “three U.S. officials familiar with the briefing,” and is one of the first — known — instances where the President’s administration has considered using disaster relief funds to begin construction on a border wall — a project the president has long said Mexico would pay for.
In order to reallocate the funds from the Army Corps budget, President Trump would need to declare a national emergency. Federal law allows the president to divert funds in the case of a national emergency, a law that was enacted through the 1976 National Emergencies Act.
In an interview that aired on Fox News on Thursday, the President said that if a deal with Congress could not be reached, “most likely I will do that. I would actually say I would.”
The President has been weighing declaring a national emergency as the partial government shutdown nears a month-long milestone. Negotiations deteriorated in December after House Democrats refused to include $5 billion dollars for construction of a wall along the Mexican border.
In a press conference last week, Plaskett identified programs and services that could be impacted by the shutdown if the federal government was not reopened soon. The Congresswoman has upped the stakes, sending a letter from her office rebuking the President’s handling of the shutdown.
Plaskett has been unapologetic on her views about the wall, stating publicly that “these funds were approved by Congress and The White House specifically for the recovery, and it is simply improper for the President to now siphon off the funding to the wall — a 5th century solution to a modern day challenge.”
Trump’s announcement later today could cool tensions in Washington if the border wall is no longer on the table, Trump could also escalate shutdown fears, with over 800,000 federal workers waiting for their agencies to be funded, pushing the nation’s longest government shutdown into its first full month.
Plaskett added that “Without adequate funding, our border security in the Caribbean will be compromised.” Pointing out that U.S. territories in the Caribbean and Pacific “are extended borders for the mainland,” that should be adequately funded to support the long-term health of the tourism product in the Virgin Islands.
The Congresswoman is expected to appear on CNN later this afternoon at 12:30pm eastern time (1:30pm Virgin Islands time) to discuss her letter more. You can read the letter here.
Editor’s Note: CNN’s newscast (mostly excerpts) can be viewed for free via their official YouTube channel.