Trump’s crucible: When the national emergency is between a president’s ears | Editorial

There is a security crisis at the border that only Donald Trump can see. While everyone else is focused on the quiet catastrophes – the hordes of desperate people, the inhumanity of family separation, the processing fiasco — he only sees drug superhighways, killer gang members, and women bound in duct tape.

His pursuit of border wall funding with fear-mongering mendacity has twice been rejected, first during the midterm election by voters, then in the showdown over the government shutdown, when he was schooled in the art of the deal by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

So two weeks away from another possible government shutdown, the president is thinking about circumventing the process by declaring a national emergency.

If Trump succeeds, he could subvert Congress’s constitutional authority to appropriate funds, and instead use military funds to construct the wall. The proposal raises questions about how far any president can extend his or her emergency powers.

His motivation is clear. His polls are tanking, and he needs to save face by usurping wall funding because it’s the last thing he can do to regain Ann Coulter’s affection.

This is not policy as solution, this is policy as laxative. It sets a very bad precedent. Emergency powers aren’t supposed to displace Congress. It’s to be used when things are unfolding too fast for it to act.

If border security were a true emergency, why wouldn’t he act immediately? Why did he pull back 4,000 troops of the troops last month? Why did he give Congress three more weeks to find a legislative solution?

If Trump succeeds, nothing will stop the next president from circumventing Congress by declaring a national emergency over global warming, a mass shooting, the potential failure of the Hudson River tunnels, or the election meddling from a foreign adversary.

Each of these is more urgent than an army of hungry Guatemalan toddlers in flip-flops.

This phantom invasion is clearly not an adequate example of a crisis. It does not rise to the level of forcing Congress to cede its authority and allow the president to seize its power of the purse.

The real crisis is clearly between the President’s ears.

Trump refuses to consult data from Customs and Border Protection: In the first half of fiscal 2018, CBP encountered a total of six immigrants at ports of entry on the southern border who were on the list of known or suspected terrorists. Far more came across the northern border.

And he refuses to listen to his intelligence people, who on Tuesday confirmed everything that he cannot accept: Iran is in compliance with its nuclear program, Isis is still a formidable threat, North Korea is still building nukes, Russia is still poised to attack our elections.

None believe there is a “crisis” at the southern border.

So Trump responds by tipping over the game board.

Intelligence assessments are not for a president’s political priorities, mood swings, and brain cramps. The same goes for emergency declarations.


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