What is Trump threatening to do?
As always, it’s impossible to know with certainty exactly what bananas plans Trump has in mind. But based on his repeated statements and some additional reporting, it’s clear that he wants to declare a national emergency. Congress has passed a large number of “emergency power” statutes, that only activate when the President declares a national emergency. There are two in particular that allow repurposed funding for certain construction projects during a national emergency, that Trump seems to think he can use in this situation. But, of course, there is no national emergency other than the crisis Trump has created himself at the border, and it is far from clear that courts would actually let Trump use these particular powers for this purpose.
Make no mistake: this would be an illegal anti-democratic power grab rooted in racism. There is no emergency. Congress and the people have rejected Trump’s wall. If he were to go around constitutional separations of power and declare a fake emergency in a desperate attempt to get his way, it would be an abuse of power, full stop. It would be a misuse of authorities that are intended for actual emergencies. It would set dangerous precedent that could further erode our democratic norms and institutions. Worse, it would put the communities most under attack by Trump at even greater risk.
For way too long, Congress has abdicated its responsibility to check presidential power grabs. This must stop. Over and over, presidents have cited “national security” rationale to erode democracy and threaten rights and liberties. Think of the internment of Japanese Americans, post-9/11 torture, and more. We think Trump’s fake emergency declaration would be illegal and immediately challenged in court. But Congress has a role here too, and must aggressively push back.
To repeat: There is no emergency. If Trump declares a fake one, it would be a blow to our democracy rooted in racism and we expect Congress to fight back.
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