The Non-Crisis Ploy

Ken AshfordGubmint Shutdown, Immigration and Xenophobia, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Flop sweat for Donald Trump.

As the government shutdown enters its third week, and there is no movement on funding Trump’s wall, Trump is looking and acting desperate. Tonight, he will go on primetime television and, everyone expects, he will declare some sort of emergency and then try to get his wall funded by the military.

Basically, the administration is trying to move the narrative away from politics and to national security, even though this issue has been — and continues to be — part and parcel to Trump’s political rallying cry. Pence said it plainly: “Our position is very simply this: There is a humanitarian and national security crisis at the southern border.” The Veep has been going on the morning shows with network White House correspondents.

At the crux of the controversy is this: Even if everyone accepts the base case that this is a humanitarian crisis, Republicans say there is no answer that does not include a wall, and Democrats — generally speaking, at the moment — say there is no answer that does include a wall.

White House aide Stephen Miller reportedly has a hand in writing the primetime address advocating for a wall on the Mexico border.

Many are doubtful that Trump’s address will be accurate when it comes to the number of crossings and threats (Washington Post provides great numbers here). Recently, the president claimed his predecessors encouraged him on the border wall. But they all came out with statements saying they never did this.

At this point, anything officially released by the White House should simply be considered a lie unless it’s confirmed with someone reliable, especially when it comes to the border. (Some are now saying that, given the parade of lies from the Administration these past few days, Trump will probably avoid stating any facts at all, and make emotional arguments about gangs, MS-13, drug trafficking, etc)

And that raises questions of legality. Can a President just declare anything an emergency? Even if it is based on made-up “facts”?

In 1976, Congress passed the National Emergencies Act, which permits the president to pronounce a national emergency on a whim, at his discretion. The act offers no definition of “emergency.” It lays out no required criteria; it demands no showing by the president.

Declaring a national emergency also gives the president access to dozens of laws with specialized funds he otherwise would not have.

There are several significant caveats and, while it may be easy to declare a national emergency, Trump cannot just do whatever he wants.

One statute provides for “unobligated funds originally set aside for military construction projects” if the national emergency involves the military, and another “permits a president to divert funds from Army civil works projects and reprogram them” but still may require further authorization. Then there is the issue of seizing land through eminent domain through a claim of military necessity.

But this might be Trump’s out. Knowing the emergency powers will be challenged in court, Trump could seek to use available funds and begin building the wall. A court would quickly decide whether to temporarily enjoin his efforts. The larger case, however, would remain in the system for years, gifting him an excuse to end the congressional impasse.

So the theatre starts tonight at 9 pm, with Democrats being granted (by the networks) equal time for a response.


UPDATE — Looks like cold feet….

And here’s some tips from a guy who knows a little about Soviet-style manipulation:

And this just happened:

Kellyanne might not like the question, but it is a legitimate one. This president lies pathologically and she knows it.

LATE NIGHT UPDATE: Trump spoke. Not for long. No declaration of a “national emergency”. He didn’t even MENTION the wall until half way through.

Over the course of the overtly political nine-minute speech on Tuesday night, Trump sought to convince the public of a nonexistent emergency to justify the partial government shutdown he started to create leverage to build his long-sought border wall. In a humiliating turn for the networks, the president broke no news, instead using the opportunity to reiterate the same immigration talking points he’s been pushing for years. And by breaking into regular programming to air what was effectively his regular stump speech, they all implicitly validated his claim of a crisis.

Here are some of the untruths and distortions in Trump’s speech, most of which he’s uttered before.

“I am speaking to you because there is a growing and humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border. Every day Customs and Border Patrol agents encounter thousand of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country. We are out of space to hold them and we have no way to promptly return them back home to their country.”

The notion that the number of border crossings represent a “crisis” is not true. The number of people caught crossing at the border (the standard metric for determining the volume of illegal crossings generally) remains below annual levels under President Barack Obama and far below the high levels of the 1990s and early 2000s. Border Patrol arrested 396,579 people at the U.S. Mexico border in fiscal year 2018. The agency arrested an average of 400,751 people per year over the previous decade.

“Over the years, thousands of Americans have been brutally killed by those who illegally entered our country.”

That distorts the truth. Several studies show that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans. A June 2018 report by the libertarian Cato Institute found that legal immigrants were roughly one-fifth as likely to be incarcerated as native-born Americans. Undocumented immigrants were half as likely to be incarcerated, according to the report, which drew on 2016 data from the American Community Survey. Do undocumented immigrants commit crimes? Of course — but at lower rates than their native-born counterparts.

“As part of an overall approach to border security, law enforcement professionals have requested $5.7 billion for a physical barrier. At the request of Democrats, it will be a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall.”

Congressional Democrats never asked that the wall be made of steel rather than concrete. When Trump first said he was making that concession, Democratic party leaders said they didn’t care. “There’s no requirement that this government be shut down while we deliberate the future of any barrier, whether it’s a fence or a wall,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“The wall would also be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we made with Mexico.”

That’s not true. Trump vowed during his presidential campaign that Mexico would pay for the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, but Mexico has refused to pay. The president now insists that Mexico will pay for the project through a renegotiated NAFTA agreement known as the USMCA. The deal still needs congressional approval and isn’t yet in effect, but even if it were in effect, any economic gains from the deal would go to private individuals and companies, not the U.S. Treasury.

And of course, Trump painted immigrants as criminals, etc. all without data or support. Nor did he presented detailed data about how many children are being fraudulently used for border-crossing purposes, merely implying it’s common. The evidence suggests it’s a small minority of the families who cross.

Essentially, it was a stump speech.

And here’s something interesting….