More fallout on that “national emergency” Trump wants to declare

Trump
lost bigtime late last week on his vanity wall, but before Democrats pop the
Champagne corks they would be well to recall his double threat: Either the
Congress will give in to his blackmail over the next three weeks and give him
the $5.7 billion, OR he’ll issue that notorious declaration of national
emergency and fund it by raiding other agencies.

The
latter is, I think, preferred by the hardest of his hardline supporters, and
thus by Trump himself. It’s not that they’re all that enamored of the wall.
Indeed, most of them never even thought about a southern wall until Trump made
it a cause celebre and Republicans
delighted in how upset it made Democrats. Pissing off Democrats is the favorite
pastime for Republicans nowadays—pretty much all they can do, given their
political emasculation. This isn’t governance; it’s juvenile pranking; but it
is what it is. And how better to piss off Democrats than for Trump to take the step
of declaring a national emergency and then diverting previously-allocated money
from, say, FEMA or HUD and directing the Army Corps of Engineers to build the
wall?

That
it would piss Democrats off royally is a given. The Left would howl; the Right
would purr in contentment. Suddenly, overnight, the shoe would be on the other
foot: Instead of Democrats pointing out to Republicans what a loser their
fuhrer was, Republicans would be howling with glee at how Trump had turned the
tables on Pelosi. I can see the Breitbart boasts now: Trump showed Pelosi who’s boss. She won a battle but lost the war. Trump
crushed her!

In actuality, declaring national emergencies isn’t as uncommon as people think. TIME magazine reported that at least 31 national emergencies have been declared by presidents since 1976. The response to Sept. 11, when George W. Bush declared the national emergency that enabled the government to step up its surveillance of U.S. citizens, is probably the best known of recent emergencies; but many others were declared, and continue in effect. Most of them pertain to sanctions against countries perceived to be acting contrary to American interests and values: Syria, Iran, Zimbabwe, Belarus, Congo, Libya, Yeman and, of course, North Korea. Most of them are strictly transactional, designed to economically bring these countries in line, usually by blocking or sequestering the assets of their ruling class. This was precisely the nature of the national emergency that the Trump administration declared against Russia last September, as retaliation for their meddling in our 2016 election.

But
I have not been able to find a single instance of a national emergency in which
a president takes money that had already been allocated by the Congress for
other purposes, in order to fund a project that the Congress refused to
approve. That is a “national emergency” of a different sort; and Democrats have
properly warned that it would lead down a slippery slope, if it happens. The
danger is obvious: anytime Trump, or any president, requests funding from the
Congress and Congress refuses, he or she could simply declare a national
emergency and siphon the money off from someplace else.

I
imagine if Trump does take this step, Democrats will immediately file for
injunctive relief, leading to a court fight that could last for years until it
wound its way up to the Supreme Court. Trump, or Congressional Democrats, or
Congressional Republicans, or all of them in common, could ask the court for a
summary ruling, arguing that the matter is too important to be left to slowly
drift its way upward. Trump and Republicans would argue that America’s national
security is at stake on the southern border. Democrats would dispute that and
instead advance the thesis that the president—any president, not just
Trump—lacks the authority to do so. A president cannot appropriate funds meant
for one thing to another thing. That would be a clear violation of the
Separation of Powers.

Who
would win?…


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