Today I’m announcing several critical actions that my administration is taking to confront a problem that we have right here at home. We fight wars that are 6,000 miles away, wars that we should have never been in, in many cases, but we don’t control our own border. So we are going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border. And we’re going to do it one way or the other. We have to do it — not because it was a campaign promise, which it is.
Lazy Caturday Reads: Trump’s Fake National EmergencyPosted: February 16, 2019
I didn’t watch Trump’s insane speech yesterday; I only saw excerpts on Twitter and T.V. Now I’m reading the transcript, and once again I’m wondering how this befuddled man can actually be “president.”
Trump went to the WH Rose Garden to declare a “national emergency” on the border between the U.S. and Mexico, but he began the speech rambling claims about trade deals with China and the UK and then moved on to Syria, ISIS, and his upcoming meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, and then he vomited out this odd bit of word salad:
China’s been helping us and Russia’s been helping us. And South Korea, I think you can say, has been — we’ve been working very closely with South Korea, with Japan. But China, Russia on the border have really been at least partially living up to what they’re supposed to be doing, and that’s OK, as per the United Nations.
Does anyone know what that means? What border? What are they “partially living up to,” and why is it OK? He followed that with another long digression about North Korea that makes even less sense. Why is this person not in a straight jacket being taken to a hospital for a psychological evaluation?
After this irrelevant rambling, Trump finally seemed about to get to the point:
But then he goes off on another long rambling digression, bragging about his so-called accomplishments before seeming to get to the point once again. He begins talking about walls and how well they supposedly work. There’s an even longer digression about walls, his rally in El Paso, “angel moms,” caravans, and his claims that human traffickers bring women across the border tied up with tape over their mouths so they can’t possibly go through a port of entry, and drugs don’t go through ports of entry either–these traffickers and “drug lords” “go around the walls.”
Nowhere in this hour of verbal diarrhea does Trump provide any real evidence that we are confronting an actual “emergency.” In fact, at one point he says:
I could do the wall over a longer period of time, I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster. And I don’t have to do it for the election; I’ve already done a lot of wall for the election 2020. And the only reason we’re up here talking about this is because of the election, because they want to try and win an election which it looks like they’re not going to be able to do.
And this is one of the ways they think they can possibly win is by obstruction and a lot of other nonsense. And I think that I just want to get it done faster, that’s all.
On top of that, Trump left for Mar-a-Lago and long weekend of golf after signing the declaration! Some emergency.
I won’t bore you and further with this, but I encourage you to read the transcript. Trump went on for about an hour just rambling, saying anything that came into his head. Even reading it is exhausting, because it makes almost so sense. Trying to follow what Trump spewed out yesterday is just crazy making. How can this person be “president?” We are in big trouble.
Here’s what people are saying about Trump’s emergency declaration.
Jonathan Chait: Trump’s Emergency Declaration Shows He Is Unfit for Office.
At worst, President Trump’s claim of emergency powers that would allow him to expand barriers on the southern border is a gross violation of democratic norms. At best, it is a craven ploy to cover his own blundering. Either way, it is a devastating indictment of his capacity to handle his job.
Begin with the worst-case scenario. As a matter of principle, the Constitution establishes a system that requires the House, Senate, and the president to approve new laws. In some cases, expediency requires the president to act unilaterally. Those rare cases are not defined as emergencies because they’re important — lots of policy is important, even life-threatening. The emergencies are cases where the executive needs to act in an especially urgent way, and where congressional involvement may not be practical.
Most of the uses of emergency powers involve foreign policy, an area where Congress has (for better or worse) ceded most of its authority to the president anyway. Presidents have not been able to use emergency powers to simply roll over congressional opposition. Bill Clinton considered health-care reform an extremely vital problem with literal life-and-death consequences — and he was right — but he never contemplated using some form of emergency powers to impose the reforms he couldn’t get Congress to enact.
Trump has of course tried to portray his power grab as just such an emergency. But illegal immigration is nothing like the kind of sudden crisis that justifies rapid action. It is a decades-long policy dispute, with border crossings now at levels well below that of a decade ago. The closest thing to a crisis is a recent surge in migrants seeking asylum, a process that entails crossing the border legally, and for which a wall is completely irrelevant. What’s more, Trump’s non-solution would take years to complete. The president’s lack of urgency to address the alleged border crisis during his first two years, when he had unified control of government, attests to his disingenuousness.
Trump’s extemporaneous commentary defending his emergency decision repeatedly gave away his own rationale. He admitted he could have passed border funding through Congress during his first year and a half, but he was “too new to politics,” and his fellow Republicans “didn’t step up.” He framed the border wall as a gambit for his campaign (“I’ve already done a lot of wall for the election — 2020.”). And he admitted the emergency declaration was a luxury rather than an emergency (“I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster.”). He is clumsily undermining his already-shaky legal case, while making it plain his ploy is to claim Executive powers to override an area of control for Congress.
Charlie Savage at The New York Times: Presidents Have Declared Dozens of Emergencies, but None Like Trump’s.
None of the times emergency powers have been invoked since 1976, the year Congress enacted the National Emergencies Act, involved a president making an end run around lawmakers to spend money on a project they had decided against funding. Mr. Trump, by contrast, is challenging the bedrock principle that the legislative branch controls the government’s purse.
“On the surface, this ‘Oh, other presidents do this, too’ line seems logical,” said Chris Edelson, an American University government professor and author of a 2013 book, “Emergency Presidential Power: From the Drafting of the Constitution to the War on Terror.” “But there is no example where a president asked for funding for something from Congress, Congress said, ‘No,’ and the president said, ‘I’ll use emergency powers to do it anyway.’” [….]
Trump tried to argue that previous presidents have declared national emergencies and it has been uncontroversial.
But a list of about 59 previous times when presidents since the Carter administration have invoked emergency powers, compiled for a recent study of presidential emergency powers for the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, shows none that look like Mr. Trump’s declaration in crucial respects.
The overwhelming majority of those instances were moves by presidents to impose sanctions on various foreign officials and groups — freezing their assets and making it illegal for Americans to do business with them — for wrongdoing like human rights violations, terrorism or transnational narcotics trafficking. They attracted no controversy because Congress has wanted the executive branch to operate that way.
Congress has also enacted a statute that gave presidents, in a declared emergency “that requires use of the armed forces,” the power to redirect military construction funds to build projects related to that use. It is that statute that Mr. Trump is relying upon, and his administration argues that this means he is exercising authority that lawmakers wanted the presidency to be able to wield.
But Elizabeth Goitein, who oversaw the Brennan Center study, pointed to the widespread dispute over whether, as a matter of empirical reality, there exists a true emergency on the border that would be resolved by a wall, as well as to the fact that Congress already made clear it did not intend to spend extra billions of dollars on Mr. Trump’s wall.
What’s at stake in this battle is a simple dilemma: Can the president declare a national emergency, and appropriate all the powers that this confers on him, when there isn’t any national emergency?
“That is the fundamental question,” Elizabeth Goitein, who has extensively researched national emergency law for the Brennan Center for Justice, told me….
The basic problem we face right now in this regard was created by Congress. The post-Watergate National Emergencies Act, or NEA, places various constraints on the powers the president has when he declares a national emergency. For instance, it requires the president to say which other statute he is relying on to exercise the particular authority he plans to employ under his declared emergency.
The NEA also creates a mechanism by which Congress can terminate the emergency by passing a resolution through both houses doing that. The House is likely to pass such a resolution, but it’s unclear whether the Senate will do so. Even if the Senate did pass it, Trump would veto it anyway, though the House still should try this to get GOP senators on the record.
But the NEA doesn’t define what an emergency is, giving the president tremendous discretion to do that himself. The core question we now face is whether that discretion is limitless.
Dahlia Lithwick at Slate: Trump Isn’t Just Defying the Constitution. He’s Undermining SCOTUS.
Legal scholars have done superb work laying out the complicated interplay between the National Emergencies Act of 1976 and the 1952 Supreme Court ruling in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer. Justice Jackson, writing in a landmark concurrence in Youngstown, established three categories of presidential power: one in which the president acts pursuant to both his Article II authority and the authority granted by Congress; the next, a “zone of twilight” in which the president acts while Congress remains silent; and the third, which he deemed the “lowest ebb” of presidential authority, where the president acts over the objections of Congress. The Emergencies Act, however, is broad and vague. Noah Feldman says declaring an emergency when none exists is clearly unconstitutional. Elizabeth Goitein argues that the courts may give Trump the green light under the broad statutory authority of the National Emergencies Act. David French says the declaration is illegal. The truth is, of course, that what legal experts and academics think is much less relevant than what actual judges will do. And the president was absolutely clear in his announcement that he has that part in the bag.
Having conceded that he’s only declaring an emergency because he “wanted to get it done faster,” Trump assured the crowd assembled in the Rose Garden that “I’ll sign the final papers as soon as I get into the Oval Office, and we will have a national emergency. We will then be sued and they will sue us in the 9th Circuit, even though it shouldn’t be there. We will possibly get a bad ruling, we’ll get another bad ruling, and we’ll end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we’ll get a fair shake and we’ll win in the Supreme Court. Just like they did on the ban, and we lost and we went to the Supreme Court and we won.”
A few more relevant links to check out:
The Washington Post: Words are a president’s strongest weapon. Trump is terrible at words.
The New York Times: Trump’s Emergency Declaration Is the First Since 9/11 to Authorize Military Action.
LA Times: President Trump is the national emergency.
My head is spinning from trying to make sense of something that will never make sense. We need to get rid of Trump. I don’t think we can wait for Robert Mueller to solve this problem. Congress should be holding impeachment hearings. Everyone but the most deluded Trumpers can see that the emperor has no clothes.
What else is happening? What stories have you been following?