Donald Trump’s xenophobic state of emergency

Donald Trump's national emergency, Kevin Siers cartoon

By Patrick Martin in the USA:

As Congress enacts huge “border security” bill

Trump to declare national emergency to build wall

15 February 2019

As Congress voted Thursday to approve spending $1.375 billion for border fencing, wall repairs and other barriers on the US-Mexico border, as part of a much larger bill funding one quarter of the federal government through September 30, the White House announced that President Donald Trump would sign the funding bill into law, but would accompany this by declaring a national emergency on the US-Mexico border.

“President Trump will sign the government funding bill, and as he has stated before, he will also take other executive action—including a national emergency—to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary.

Under the emergency declaration, the White House claims, Trump would have the authority to direct the US military to build the full-scale wall he has demanded along the border, but which Congress, under both Republican and Democratic control, has refused to support. Trump would reportedly use the assumed emergency powers to redirect funds appropriated by Congress for other purposes to pay for the wall instead.

Under Article I of the Constitution, Congress has the power to appropriate funds. “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law,” the text reads.

Given the clear constitutional reservation to Congress of the “power of the purse”, Trump’s emergency decree has the character of an authoritarian, dictatorial move. It would represent a new assertion of executive authority, and, together with the very limited resistance expected from the legislative branch, a significant erosion of the constitutional system of “checks and balances” devised after the American Revolution to prevent the growth of a monarchical type of unrestrained executive power.

The responses of the two top congressional leaders are revealing. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the top Republican, had publicly opposed the declaration of a national emergency to evade congressional authority over spending—until Thursday afternoon, when he told the Senate, just before the vote on the federal funding bill, that Trump had agreed to sign the bill only if he combined it with an emergency declaration. McConnell said he now supported such a decree.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top congressional Democrat, criticized Trump’s expected declaration, saying, “The president is doing an end run around Congress.” She said that Democrats were “reviewing our options”, which could include a congressional resolution of disapproval, or a legal challenge.

At the same time, she was visibly ambivalent about the right of a president to assert emergency powers, suggesting that a Democratic president could make use of the same power on an issue like gun control. Noting the first anniversary of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, she continued, “That’s a national emergency. Why don’t you declare that emergency, Mr. President? I wish you would.”

The implications of this political collaboration (from the Republicans) and complacency (from the Democrats) are quite ominous. Neither bourgeois party is waging a fight to defend the constitutional separation of powers or oppose what is, in effect, the declaration of unlimited presidential power.

Neither Pelosi or any other Democrat has suggested that such a declaration is a violation of the constitution, let alone an impeachable offense. Similarly, the media discusses the action entirely from the standpoint of its immediate impact on the border issue, or on Trump’s political fortunes in 2020, but not as an attack on democratic rights. Public opinion is being desensitized to this threat.

It is worth recalling that the congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force, passed in 2001, initially adopted as an urgent necessity to respond to the 9/11 attacks, has been interpreted by successive administrations, Democratic and Republican, as a blanket declaration of war on any organization or government targeted by the US president.

In a similar fashion, the declaration of a national emergency to resolve a domestic political dispute in favor of the president could be repeated and extended. The first time it is done, it may be controversial; the second time, there will already be a precedent; the third time, it will become routine.

The assumption of emergency powers makes the president the arbiter of Washington, able to draw on huge and effectively unlimited resources, such as the $800 billion budget for the Pentagon, the main focus of the Trump White House in its search for funding for the border wall. In using Pentagon funds and ordering military personnel to build the wall—either directly, through the Army Corps of Engineers, or by using Pentagon subcontractors—Trump would effectively settle this domestic political issue through the exercise of his powers as commander-in-chief.

According to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice, there have been 58 national emergency declarations since the National Emergencies Law was adopted, codifying the procedure, in 1976. Of these, 31 declarations are still active. Nearly all the emergency declarations have been directly linked to the foreign policy of the US government and to the president’s authority as commander-in-chief. The vast majority involve presidential directives blocking US trade or financial dealings with designated foreign individuals, organizations or governments, or entire countries.

The list of countries subject to such emergency declarations is a roster of those once or currently targeted for aggression and subversion by Washington. Among the declarations on the Brennan list are those currently directed against individuals, parties or governments in Iran, Venezuela, Sudan, Nicaragua, Russia, Cuba, North Korea, Congo, Belarus, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Central African Republic, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. There are also blanket orders dealing with terrorist groups, narcotics traffickers, and trade in chemical, biological and nuclear weapons or their components. There are orders, now expired, against targets in Serbia, Bosnia, Liberia, the Ivory Coast, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan under the Taliban, Panama, Haiti, Angola, and South Africa under apartheid.

Only one emergency declaration concerns a US domestic crisis, the outbreak of the H1N1 flu epidemic in 2009, which was allowed to expire after the epidemic subsided.

No president in modern history has ever used the declaration of a national emergency to bypass Congress or decide a dispute over domestic policy.

One declaration of national emergency, so-called Proclamation 7463, was issued by President George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks. This is the measure under which the president orders National Guard units to serve overseas, a key component of the US military effort in the invasions and subsequent occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. It has been renewed year after year, first by Bush, then Obama, and in 2017 and 2018 by Trump.

Meanwhile, Congress has never exercised its right to review the actions taken under these emergency declarations. In fact, according to one report, no president has ever carried out the requirement to report to Congress every six months on what funds have been expended in furtherance of these emergency decrees.

None of these democratic and constitutional issues were raised in the desultory and limited debates held before the Senate and House votes Thursday on the funding legislation. The bill, providing more than $300 billion to eight federal departments and many lesser agencies, passed the Senate 83–16 and the House 300–106.

Only five Senate Democrats opposed the bill, including four announced presidential candidates—Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. …

In the House of Representatives only 19 Democrats opposed the bill to provide $49 billion in funding to the Department of Homeland Security, including $1.375 billion in wall funding. They were joined by 87 ultra-right Republicans who wanted the full $5.7 billion in wall funding initially demanded by Trump.

UNPRECEDENTED MOVE BY TRUMP While the six previous presidents collectively declared dozens of national emergencies, Trump’s wall declaration would be the first to finance an unpopular construction project that congresses his own country and a neighboring one refused to fund. [HuffPost]

TRUMP TO VETO CONGRESS OVER NATIONAL EMERGENCY Trump is prepared to issue the first veto of his term if Congress votes to disapprove his declaration of a national emergency along the U.S.-Mexico border, a top White House adviser said. [HuffPost]

Following national emergency declaration. White House pushes for rapid border wall construction: here.

32 thoughts on “Donald Trump’s xenophobic state of emergency

  1. Pingback: Sri Lankan Trump-Duterte-Saudi-like lethal ‘war on drugs’ | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Trump just declared a national emergency so he can bypass Congress and build his racist border wall.

    Time is running out. We have to act fast. Sign our urgent petition right now demanding Democrats stand with immigrant communities and denounce President Trump’s manufactured national emergency.

    Trump and the GOP shut down the government for 35 days, causing immeasurable damage to our economy, institutions, and families.

    They have vilified immigrant communities and persecuted refugees fleeing from violence.
    They have separated thousands of children from their parents, now unable to reunite them all.
    They have paraded around Washington throwing childish temper tantrums.

    And now Trump thinks he can get away with wasting taxpayer dollars to build a costly and unnecessary wall that’s rooted in racism and hatred? Not on our watch.

    Please, Lola — before it’s too late — sign our petition now urging Democrats to stand united against Trump’s selfish, childish national emergency.

    The GOP can lie all they want, but, the truth is on our side: their immigration policies have nothing to do with safety and everything to do with demonizing immigrants.

    The time to stand up and fight back is NOW.

    In solidarity,

    Team Latino Victory


  3. I’m horrified that the President of the United States declared a national emergency in order to illegally divert funds to build his wasteful border wall — that’s right, the border wall that the majority of Americans oppose and that Congress will not pass.

    This un-American act sets an extremely dangerous precedent. President Trump should not have the option to declare an emergency every time he doesn’t get his way.

    This is an absurd violation of the separation of powers and not the intended use of this executive authority. A national emergency is meant to provide relief after a natural disaster or catastrophe, not to help the President override Congress because he isn’t getting everything he wants.

    Add your name now and join me in telling President Trump that we won’t stand for his outrageous and fabricated national emergency declaration over his phony border wall crisis.

    While President Trump is moving toward this unconstitutional abuse of power, Democrats and Republicans passed a bipartisan compromise through Congress that rejected the President’s wasteful border wall and sent a clear message about what Congress intends when it comes to border security.

    Democrats and many Republicans agree that we should invest in smart border security and address humanitarian concerns, but there is no “emergency” and no justification for President Trump’s actions. That is not how our government is supposed to work, and we can’t stand for it.

    Sign on now to tell President Trump that you oppose his fake national emergency.

    I will keep you updated as we learn more, but rest assured that I will be standing up for all who believe in our Constitution and fighting back against these actions from President Trump.

    Thank you,

    [Senator] Patty [Murray]


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  5. On Friday, Trump declared a “national emergency” at the U.S. border so he can grab federal funds to build his racist border wall.1 Trump’s actions are illegal, immoral, and unacceptable. That’s why tomorrow, on Presidents Day, we’re taking to the streets.

    Join the national day of protest this Monday, February 18, to send a clear message to Congress: TRUMP is the national emergency. Rein in presidential powers immediately, and block all funding for Trump’s racist border wall.

    This is an unconstitutional power grab, the likes of which this country has never seen.2 Trump’s manufactured “national emergency” gives him vast new powers to undermine our democracy and supercharge his white supremacist base. He’s now more able than ever to escalate attacks on immigrants, communities of color, Muslims, and Black and brown people.

    Congress can stop this. They have the power to revoke Trump’s declaration of emergency. Democratic and Republican members of Congress alike have already spoken out against Trump on this,3 showing that his political support on this issue is fading fast. Momentum is on our side. But Congress will only act if enough of us all around the country come together very quickly to demand it. That’s why Monday’s national day of protest is so important.

    Can you join or start a protest near you tomorrow, Monday, February 18, to demand Congress put an end to Trump’s racist and unconstitutional “national emergency”?

    Thank you for taking action.

    — Shaunna, Kat, Karin, Holly, Kathy, Susan, Anathea, Audine, Emma, Pilar, Natalie, Melody, Pam, Lindsay, Ryan, Sonja, and Noma, the UltraViolet team


    1. Trump Declares a National Emergency, and Provokes a Constitutional Clash, New York Times, February 15, 2019

    2. Declaring a national emergency to build a border wall is out of step with history–and unpopular, Washington Post, February 14, 2019

    “This is a constitutional crisis”: a legal expert on Trump’s emergency declaration, Vox, February 15, 2019

    3. Republicans Melt Down Over Trump’s National Emergency, Vanity Fair, February 15, 2019


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