New legal framework for Alert Level 2 to be introduced today

While the Government claims that restrictions under Alert Level 4 and 3 were legal they are still introducing a bill into Parliament today aimed at providing a new law “providing a legal framework for Covid-19 Alert Level 2”.

They say they don’t want to rely on a National State of Emergency for the lower level, but they didn’t back in March when we first went into lockdown in Marchh. See Prime Minister’s statement on State of National Emergency and Epidemic Notice

Having considered the advice of the Director Civil Defence Emergency Management, the Minister of Civil Defence declared a State of National Emergency for the whole of New Zealand under section 66 of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 on March the 25th 2020 at 12.21pm.

Also, under section 5 of the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006, yesterday I issued an Epidemic Notice, nationwide, to help ensure the continuity of essential Government business due to the unprecedented effects of the global pandemic, COVID-19, which is likely to significantly disrupt essential governmental and business activity in New Zealand.

This Epidemic Notice came into effect today, the 25th of March 2020, just after midnight and it will remain for three months with ongoing review, and from which, now further Epidemic Management Notices and Epidemic Modification Orders can be given…

We went to Alert Level 2 before that, on 21 March, and then to Alert Level 3 on 23 March, before the state of emergency was announced and before the Epidemic Notice was issued.

Things had to be done urgently, but they also should have been done legally.

From the Beehive: Covid-19 response: New legal framework to be debated tomorrow ahead of Alert Level 2

The Government intends to pass the COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill through all stages on Tuesday 12 May so that it can be enacted by Wednesday 13 May.

“As I announced on Friday, the changes will ensure controls on gatherings of people and physical distancing are still enforceable,” Attorney-General David Parker said today.

Enforceability to date has relied on the Epidemic Notice, the Health Act and the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act.

As shown above, apparently not under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act for the first level 2 and 3, and also not under the Epidemic Notice.

“There will be fewer restrictions under Alert Level 2 but those remaining still need to be enforceable. We don’t want these narrower controls to rely on a National State of Emergency. “

This suggests that the first restrictions under Alert Level 2 and 3 were not legally enforceable.

“However, the regulatory backup provided by the new law allows us to address behaviour at Alert Level 2 that is particularly harmful to the public health objective, and to demonstrate to those who are complying voluntarily that non-compliance will not be tolerated,” he said.

“We need the legislation in place before Level 2 starts.

“The Government has assessed there is not time for the usual select committee process but we do want a necessarily brief opportunity for comment on the bill. Therefore we have released a disclosure draft of the Bill to the Opposition and experts, and have invited comment on it by 10am, Tuesday 12 May.

Parliament re-opened last week, and they should have foreseen the need before the last minute (last day). Perhaps the judicial review filed in the High Court last week has prompted an attempt to make the lower alert levels legal.

“I reiterate there has been no gap in the legal underpinning or in the enforcement powers under the notices that have been issued under Level 3 and Level 4. This bill does not retrospectively change them.”

The dates above suggest otherwise, and it also puts into further question the legal underpinning of the enforcement powers for Alert Level 2 (and 3) back in March.

It’s good to see them getting the legal side of the lockdowns tidied up, but Parker shouldn’t have claimed it was fine from the start.

Defying the US CongressTrump declares national emergency to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, UAE

This has to be somewhat concerning.

A few days ago from Reuters – Trump administration may use Iran threat to sell bombs to Saudis without Congress’ approval: senator

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration plans to use a loophole and rising tensions with Iran to sell bombs to Saudi Arabia, even though Congress blocked such sales for months over concerns about civilian deaths in the war in Yemen, Senator Chris Murphy said on Wednesday.

“I am hearing that Trump may use an obscure loophole in the Arms Control Act and notice a major new sale of bombs to Saudi Arabia (the ones they drop in Yemen) in a way that would prevent Congress from objecting. Could happen this week,” the Democratic senator warned on Twitter.

Congressional aides said there are provisions of the Arms Control Act, which sets rules for international arms transactions, that would allow a president to approve a sale without congressional review in case of a national emergency.

In this case, they said the Republican president would cite rising tensions with Iran as a reason to provide more military equipment to Saudi Arabia, which he sees as an important U.S. partner in the region. Trump has touted arms sales to the Saudis as a way to generate U.S. jobs.

Trump previously declared an influx of immigrants a national emergency to bypass Congress and get $6 billion to build his wall along the Mexican border. Both Democrats and his fellow Republicans voted to block the move, forcing Trump to issue the first veto of his presidency.

Now from Reuters: Defying Congress, Trump sets $8 billion-plus in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE

U.S. President Donald Trump, declaring a national emergency because of tensions with Iran, swept aside objections from Congress on Friday to complete the sale of over $8 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

The Trump administration informed congressional committees that it will go ahead with 22 military sales to the Saudis, United Arab Emirates and Jordan, infuriating lawmakers by circumventing a long-standing precedent for congressional review of major weapons sales.

Several of Trump’s fellow Republicans, as well as Democrats, said they would object to such a plan, fearing that blowing through the “holds” process would eliminate Congress’ ability to check not just Trump but future presidents from selling weapons where they liked.

Representative Mike McCaul, the top Republican on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said the administration’s action was “unfortunate” and likely to damage future White House interactions with Congress.

“I would have strongly preferred for the administration to utilize the long-established and codified arms sale review process,” McCaul said in a statement.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that U.S. partners in the Middle East needed the contracts to be completed to help deter Iran, and that the decision to circumvent Congress was meant to be a “one-time event.”

In his memorandum justifying the emergency declaration, Pompeo listed years of actions by Iran. “Iranian malign activity poses a fundamental threat to the stability of the Middle East and to American security at home and abroad,” he wrote, and cited “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Tehran.

Trump’s administration also announced that it was sending 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East, which it described as an effort to bolster defenses against Iran against what it sees as a threat of potential attack.

Members of Congress from both parties have worried that Trump is pushing toward war with Iran.

War with Congress, war with Iran – is there nothing that Trump can’t do?

 

 

Trump declares national emergency to get border wall built

President Donald Trump has been promising for years to build a wall because of security threats. He has been threatening for weeks to declare a national emergency over border security in order to get funds to build more wall between the US and Mexico.

There must be a sudden emergency, because he has just declared one.

President Donald Trump plans to spend about $8 billion on border barriers, far more than Congress has given him for that purpose.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney says Trump will tap various other sources of money beyond the nearly $1.4 billion in a government funding bill that Congress passed. Trump is expected to sign the bill.

Besides the money from Congress, Mulvaney said Friday that Trump plans to spend $600 million in Treasury forfeiture funds and $2.5 billion in Defense Department counterdrug money. Trump is also tapping about $3.6 billion worth of funds set aside for military construction projects.

BBC:  ‘Walls work’: Trump confirms emergency move

President Trump confirms he’ll use emergency powers to build a wall on Mexico’s border, saying “walls work”.

But it’s far from certain if his declaring an emergency will work.

Reuters – Explainer: Trump risks legal fight with emergency threat on wall

President Donald Trump will almost certainly face legal challenges over his decision to declare a national emergency to get additional funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall, circumventing the power of Congress to set spending policy.

Legal scholars say it is unclear how such a step would play out, but they agree a court test would likely focus on whether an emergency actually exists on the southern border and on the limits of presidential power over taxpayer funds.

Trump is unhappy with a bipartisan border security bill that is going through Congress to avert another government shutdown, because it contains only a fraction of the funds he demanded for his promised border wall. The White House said Trump would sign the bill but declare a national emergency to try to obtain funds for the wall.

That will likely trigger a long legal fight possibly stretching into Trump’s 2020 re-election bid, and embolden critics who already accuse him of authoritarian tendencies and unpredictable swerves in policy-making.

Congressional Democrats are already vowing legal challenges.

They have balked at giving Trump money for what they say is a wasteful and unnecessary wall.

CNBC:  Trump will sign spending bill, declare a national emergency and ‘other executive action’ to build wall

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “may” file a legal challenge and will review her options, she told reporters Thursday.

“Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that President Trump broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall,” she and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement Thursday. They added: “This is not an emergency, and the president’s fearmongering doesn’t make it one.”

As Trump moves to declare national emergency to build wall, border crossings at record lows