Faced with the prospect of actually cutting a deal, the great deal-maker is opting out. Instead, Donald Trump will address the nation on Tuesday evening to inform everyone he is just going to steal their tax funds to do as he wants. Promise kept … where the promise is that Trump would be an autocratic dictator who crushed democratic institutions.
NBC is reporting that, according to Mike Pence, Trump has made “no decision” about declaring a national emergency. But then, Pence also came to Congress and told them Trump was willing to compromise on his pulled-from-his-butt $5.6 billion wall number. That wasn’t true. In fact, over the course of the supposed “negotiations,” Trump has continually added more money to his demands. In addition to the wall funds, he has piled on at least another $4 billion for enlarging his border concentration camps.
The truth is that Trump never had any intention of making a deal, because he left himself no deal to make. He had already reached a compromise with Congress in the first weeks of December that would have provided more than a billion dollars to do with as he wanted on the border. This bill passed the Senate 100-0, would have easily passed in the House, and would have allowed Trump to declare victory while keeping the lights on and the government working. But then, the world’s most elegant ego decided that he could not tolerate a few sharp words from Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh. So he blew up the deal. He decided that it was more important to please the loudest voices on the AM dial than to operate the nation.
Having destroyed his only reasonable option, Trump instructed his surrogates to go out and find him a way to “win.” Except there was no way that didn’t involve backing away from his demands. He had dug a hole, climbed in, and only then determined that he needed a ladder.
Trump shut down the government, having made absolutely no preparations for what the shutdown would mean, or how it would affect the nation or the economy. As Vanity Fair is only the latest to report, neither Trump nor anyone else on team who “hasn’t escaped yet” had the slightest concept of what it actually meant to handle a government shutdown. In fact, it was only two weeks into the shutdown that they bothered to look at the “potential impact.” By which point that impact was no longer potential; it was beating America about the head and shoulders.
And now, to resolve a crisis brought on by his own ego, over an issue that only exists in the minds of his campaign team … Trump will simply slide on his red armband and declare Congress out of business.
The wall was created by his campaign staff entirely so that Trump had an easy thing to say at campaign rallies and didn’t get lost in the weeds trying to explain an immigration policy that had any hope of actually working. The entire wall “policy” isn’t a policy at all—it’s a mnemonic aid. Of course, it was going to be big, beautiful, and one-hundred percent effective. It’s an imaginary object. It could easily have been completely gold-plated and decorated by 200-foot murals of Trump.
And maybe it will be. Because Trump is simply going to seize the funds to build the wall by declaring a national emergency. He will “win” his deal by simply making no deal at all.
Can Trump declare a national emergency? He can. As Lawfare explains, the National Emergencies Act of 1976 doesn’t specify any hurdles that the executive has to clear before dropping the E-word. That doesn’t mean they do it often. In eight years, Barack Obama never dusted off this bill. George W. Bush did declare a national emergency following 9/11. But that was pretty much … a national emergency.
For Trump to declare a national emergency, in this case, is no one’s concept of how the NEA was supposed to work. This isn’t the executive stepping in to deal with a genuine emergency that is developing too quickly to permit handling through normal procedures. This is Donald Trump creating a crisis, then refusing to resolve that crisis unless he wins.
Should Trump declare a national emergency this evening, it doesn’t mean he automatically gets his money—except that it kind of does.
Section 2808 allows only spending on “military construction projects,” and within that category it only allows spending on those projects that “are necessary to support such use of the armed forces” (that is, supporting the use of the armed forces in response to the declared emergency).
So Trump’s declaration of an emergency is likely to be paired with an additional deployment of troops to the border, and a resolution that makes his wall not an immigration policy, but a “military fortification.” And that is as scary as it gets. That’s not the dial being turned up another notch under the pot holding the national frog; that’s full boil.
This is government by fiat. And on this point alone, Trump should be subject to impeachment and removal. Because if Congress permits this to happen, then it’s made a declaration of its own—that Congress is no longer a co-equal branch of government. It can only do whatever Donald Trump allows it to do.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.