As President Trump prepares to deliver the State of The Union, a constitutional crisis is brewing. The president has been floating the idea of using the powers afforded to him during times of national emergency to build his wall, bypassing the democratically-elected Congress.
On Friday, a journalist asked Trump if he planned to declare a national emergency to build the wall. “I think there’s a good chance that we’ll have to do that. But we will at the same time be building, regardless, we’re building a wall,” he responded. “I’m saying listen closely to the State of the Union. I think you’ll find it very exciting.”
To highlight the “threat” posed by immigrants, the president reportedly plans to invite the family of a couple killed by an undocumented immigrant to his State of The Union speech.
Trump usually floats his ideas publicly before carrying them out. Should Trump actually declare such an emergency, it would immediately be challenged in court. Article I of the US Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse, and they have rejected his wall on no uncertain terms. This order would strip border residents of their homes through eminent domain and irreparably harm wildlife populations. This “emergency” would be a nakedly unconstitutional power grab.
Even those who favor Trump’s wall should be worried about the precedent this sets. If the president can do whatever he wants by simply declaring a national emergency, expect this to become a far more frequent occurrence not only under Trump but future presidents as well. Congress would cease to be a co-equal branch of government, giving the executive branch unchecked power – something that would have terrified the founders and should terrify you.
Trump is backed into a corner, making him the most dangerous now. He was forced to cave in his government shutdown fight after organized labor, tired and stressed out over not being paid, shut down the nation’s airports. His approval rating has plunged to an all-time low, and his political enemies now control the House of Representatives where they can hold the administration accountable for the first time.
The conservative pundits who seem to serve as unofficial presidential advisors have begun to turn on him over his failure to deliver on the border wall. Ann Coulter, the author of “In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!” recently went on liberal comedian Bill Maher’s show admitting she was a “very stupid girl” for supporting the president. Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs declared Trump had been “whipped” by Nancy Pelosi, while the ultra-right Gateway Pundit ran the headline “TRUMP CAVES! Ends Shutdown with NO BORDER WALL — Pelosi’s SECOND BIG WIN This Week.” The president may see declaring a national emergency as the only way to deliver on a promise to his base.
In using his emergency powers for political purposes, Trump would join the ranks of history’s worst dictators. Shortly after Hitler was elected chancellor, there was an arson attack on the Reichstag, where the German parliament was located. Without proof, the Nazis blamed the Communists and used emergency powers to go after them. While there are obviously large differences between Trump and Hitler, both have the same authoritarian impulses and willingness to lie to achieve their goals.
There is no crisis at our southern border. In fact, illegal crossings are at an all-time low. While the President conjures up images of dangerous foreigners causing drugs to pour into the country, studies show immigrants – even undocumented ones – are less likely to be criminals than the native-born population. However, this administration has never let facts get in the way of a convenient lie.