While troops amassed at the border for a purely political stunt missed Thanksgiving with their families, the fraud that sent them there was golfing and musing over how many ways he could violate the constitution with his border obsession. In rambling remarks on Thanksgiving Day, he talked about shutting down the entire southern border, shutting down the government, and his assertion that “If [border troops] have to, they’re going to use lethal force. I’ve given the OK. … If they have to—I hope they don’t have to.”
Trump’s supposed OK for troops to use lethal force is the latest constitutional crisis and administration embroglio he’s forced, pitting his white supremacist immigration aides against the Pentagon. The push to have troops authorized to shoot at asylum seekers was driven by, “among others, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller; Chris Crane, president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council; and Brandon Judd, president of the border patrol union,” in a meeting in the White House on Monday. Opposing, initially, were White House chief of staff John Kelly and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Politico reports that “also present was Vice President Mike Pence, who did not take a stand on the issue, according to one of the people briefed on the debate.”
Kelly and Nielsen “eventually came around to the president’s position,” we’re told, after “dozens” of meetings and drafts of the declaration, and after they decided this was a way to save their own skins with Trump, who is continually talking about firing one or both of them. Who they left out entirely, apparently, is Defense Secretary James Mattis, who was supposedly taken by surprise by the final order. On Wednesday, he said he is “reviewing the order,” and that Kelly “has the authority to do what the president tells him to do,” but that “regardless of what he himself is asked to do, he will not order troops to violate the law.”
The law is the Posse Comitatus Act, a law prohibiting the military from acting as law enforcement on American soil. “We’ll decide if it’s appropriate for the military, and at that point, things like Posse Comitatus obviously are in play,” Mattis said. “We’ll stay in strict accordance with the law.” Meanwhile, “Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, told POLITICO earlier this week that the 5,000-plus troops deployed there did not have the authority to use lethal force to protect CBP agents.”
Trying to use the military for domestic political gain on U.S. soil? Classic authoritarian move. And one more step toward the constitutional crisis Trump has been begging for.