There is no better example of President Trump’s failure in leadership and governance than his use of a national emergency to build his wall. I am reminded of a type Magic: The Gathering player that “scoops” (or forfeits) in the middle of a game to deny the other players resources they rightfully earned. This often happens when somebody makes a good play in a multiplayer format, and once you leave the game, your cards go with you, denying any other player the benefits they may have (rightfully) received from their play. Trump is the angry player, and Congress is every other player in the game. He got butthurt because he wasn’t getting his way, so if he can’t have fun, no one can. But I digress.
On Friday, February 15, Trump declared a national emergency in order to divert funds previously allocated by Congress to fund a border wall along the United States-Mexico border. He plans to divert a total of 8 billion dollars for funding, according to an article from the New York Times.
“I didn’t need to do this,” Trump said in a televised speech given in the White House Rose Garden on Friday. If this was unnecessary and the wall is “very, very on its way” like the president said in an AP press release earlier in the week, how can he claim a national emergency like this? “…I’d rather do it much faster,” Trump explained in his Rose Garden speech, but this desire for speed does not at all constitute the declaration of a national emergency, no matter how eager he is to try and mask his failures.
If migrant workers and asylum seekers constitute a national emergency, I’d love to know what our president considers the tens of thousands of lives lost to gun violence each year, the extreme climate change we’re facing, the healthcare crisis, et cetera.
Trump’s failure to fund the wall and please his supporters has made him desperate. Trying to save face, he and his team have presented a non-emergency emergency aiming to seize a measly 8 billion dollars. In a blatant display of disregard for the separation of powers, Trump has (metaphorically) spit in the face of Congress and the American people, many of whom oppose the wall. A poll released by the Pew Research Center in January showed that 58 percent of Americans oppose expansion of the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump is coming for Congress, and he means to usurp the balance of power in the United States. The real national emergency seems to be that we have an autocrat for a president that seems to believe that he is not subject to constitutional restraints or the law.
It didn’t take long for legal pushback. So far, 16 states have sued to stop Trump’s plan, according to an article from BBC. Trump himself even predicted the matter would “end up in the Supreme Court” during his speech in the Rose Garden. Regardless of the outcome, at this point there is a serious risk that the result will set a dangerous legal precedent. Courts could give too much deference to the executive branch, taking a piece of a political tradition and potential setting a precedent to cover the president’s disingenuous claims, encouraging more actions like that in the future. On the other hand, however, if the courts lean too far in the opposite direction, throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water as a result of second-guessing the executive branch in an extreme circumstance like the one we’re in now, it could result in courts doubting the president in less extreme circumstances. This is a complex legal situation, and the fate of checks and balances between the branches lays in the proverbial hands of the judicial branch. Hopefully, enough judges remain untouched by Trumpism that everything will settle.
I always knew the president was propelling himself down a dangerous and unpredictable path. I never guessed he’d be trying to take the courts down with him.