The National Emergencies Obama Declared Show He & Trump Had At Least One Common Concern
On Feb. 15, President Donald Trump declared a controversial national emergency to allocate funds to build a wall along the southern U.S. border. Amidst chatter about when it's appropriate for a president to declare a national emergency, you may be curious whether previous presidents made emergency declarations, and why they did so. Indeed, this list of national emergencies Obama declared shows the 44th president didn't shy away from the action — and that he issued declarations primarily related to international affairs.
As CBS News reported, President Obama made 12 emergency declarations during his two terms in office. Of these 12 emergencies, 10 are still ongoing. As CNN reported, it's not uncommon for states of emergency to continue after a president leaves office.
By comparison, thus far President Trump has declared four national emergencies. In December 2017, he imposed sanctions against officials contributing to the Rohingya conflict in Myanmar. In 2018, he issued two declarations — one to impose automatic sanctions if foreign entities interfere in a U.S. election and another to penalize Nicaraguan government officials for human rights violations. Most recently, in February 2019, Trump declared a national emergency via presidential proclamation to secure funding for a border wall between the United States and Mexico.
Like Trump, many of Obama's national emergency declarations were related to foreign affairs and conflicts, though none seemed to engender as much controversy as Trump's emergency border wall, CNN reported. Taking a closer look at each of Obama's declarations will allow you to get a sense of what exactly the 44th president believed constituted a national emergency.
Obama declared his first national emergency on Oct. 23, 2009. The presidential proclamation is entitled, "Declaration of a National Emergency With Respect to the 2009 H1N1 Influenza Pandemic." It authorized the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make exceptions to some federal health care requirements in order to better address the American swine flu pandemic, The Guardian reported.
Conflict In Somalia
Obama issued an executive order known as "Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Conflict in Somalia" in April 2010. Bloomberg reported that the order froze the American assets of specific people that his administration deemed as contributing to violence in Somalia and related piracy near its coastline.
Transnational Criminal Organizations
The April 2010 national emergency known as "Blocking Property of Transnational Criminal Organizations" focused on levying sanctions against crime cartels. The Washington Post reported that the executive order targeted four transnational criminal organizations — Los Zetas, the Yakuza, the Brothers' Circle and the Camorra. As the paper described, it penalized people affiliated with these groups with frozen assets and property and travel bans, among other consequences.
Unrest In Libya
Obama's third national emergency is entitled, "Blocking Property and Prohibiting Certain Transactions Related to Libya," and it was issued in February 2011. The order penalized former Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi, his associates, and members of his family following a series of government-led violent incidents against Libyan civilians, Foreign Policy reported. The outlet added that Obama elected to freeze their American assets, among other penalties.
Conflict In Yemen
In May 2012, Obama issued a national emergency related to the violence occurring following the Yemeni revolution of January 2011-February 2012. The executive order is known as "Blocking Property of Persons Threatening the Peace, Security, or Stability of Yemen." As the Washington Post described, the national emergency authorized the Obama administration to freeze the assets of anyone who impeded the country's political transition.
Uranium Enrichment In Russia
The lengthy title of Obama's June 2012 national emergency declaration aptly summarizes its purpose. The executive order is called, "Blocking Property of the Government of the Russian Federation Relating to the Disposition of Highly Enriched Uranium Extracted From Nuclear Weapons." It penalized Russia for the way in which the country was discarding highly enriched uranium that came from nuclear weapons, USA Today reported.
Annexation Of Crimea
CNBC reported that Obama issued an executive order in March 2014 after Russia's military annexed Crimea, a majority Russian-speaking peninsula that is part of Ukraine. The order is entitled "Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine." As CNBC noted, it placed sanctions on Russian officials and Crimean separatists to penalize them for supporting and organizing the military incursion.
Sudanese Civil War
President Obama's April 2014 emergency declaration recognized the civil war in South Sudan as a threat to American national security and broader global security. The order is known "Blocking Property of Certain Persons With Respect to South Sudan." As The Sudan Tribune described, it imposed travel bans and froze the assets of people found to be contributing to the South Sudanese conflict.
Violence In The Central African Republic (CAR)
As NPR reported, in May 2014 Obama issued a national emergency to penalize five people who engaged in violence against civilians amidst the country's ongoing civil war. The order is entitled "Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Conflict in the Central African Republic" and it imposed various economic sanctions.
In response to an increased number of cyber attacks against the United States, Obama declared a national emergency to address the issue in April 2015, The Hill reported. The order is known as "Blocking the Property of Certain Persons Engaging in Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities." The Hill noted that it authorized the Treasury Department to sanction (via asset freezing) individuals and organizations if they engaged in any type of cyber espionage or cyber attack against the United States.
Government Actions In Venezuela
In May 2015, The Guardian reported that Obama declared a national emergency to sanction seven Venezuelans following the country's crackdown on anti-government dissent. The sanctions were levied against high-ranking officials in Venezuela's government, the paper reported. The emergency declaration is entitled, "Blocking Property and Suspending Entry of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Venezuela"
Unrest In Burundi
Following widespread unrest in Burundi sparked by a leadership crisis, Obama declared a national emergency related to the country in November 2015. The executive order, entitled, "Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Burundi," sanctioned four Burundian individuals for engaging in acts of violence, the New York Times reported.
It's clear that Obama didn't hesitate to issue emergency declarations when he felt it was necessary. Like Trump, many of Obama's national emergencies focused on foreign affairs, though none seemed to face the extensive legal pushback that is already mounting over Trump's most recent declaration.