Donald Trump has a way of talking himself into some yuuuuge pickles. That was true long before he rode down the Trump Tower escalator almost four years ago. But he may have talked himself into his biggest pickle that isn’t related to Russia or Michael Cohen on Friday. Just hours after bowing to the inevitable and signing a bipartisan deal to avert another shutdown, Trump followed through on his threat to declare a national emergency in order to get funding for his precious border wall.
But before he formally signed the declaration, Trump undercut its very basis. In a Rose Garden press conference with reporters, Trump made a startling admission–he knew full well that it wasn’t necessary to declare a national emergency. Watch a condensed version of the press conference from The Washington Post.
NBC News’ Peter Alexander asked Trump why he couldn’t get Congress to give him the $5.7 billion he initially wanted for a wall. Trump’s response has to be reproduced in full to be believed.
I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster.
With just 12 words, Trump may very well have ended the all-but-certain political and legal battle over this declaration before it even started. Simply put, wanting to get something done quickly is not a legitimate reason for declaring a national emergency. At least, it shouldn’t be in any self-respecting democracy.
Trump is likely to live to regret those words. After all, it’s a near-certainty that the Democratic-led House will vote on a formal resolution of disapproval–thus forcing the Republican-led Senate to vote on it as well. If it passes and Trump vetoes it, it’s very likely that the Democrats will ask a court to rescind the emergency declaration. Should it get that far, Trump’s own words will be exhibit A for the Democrats’ legal team.
For that reason, it’s very likely that Trump’s legal team was running around screaming when their boss all but admitted there was no basis for an emergency declaration. It’s very likely a few other people in Washington were running around screaming as well–namely, the House Freedom Caucus, the gaggle of bomb-throwing conservatives who have been Trump’s most resolute supporters on Capitol Hill.
A little over 16 hours before Trump’s press conference, the caucus’ communications chairman, Jody Hice of Georgia, penned an op-ed for USA Today in which he argued Trump really did need to declare a national emergency.
Hice recycled the standard Trumpian talking point about the wall–there was a “humanitarian and national security crisis” at the border, yet the Democrats are so “blinded by hatred of the president” that they have maintained an “uncompromising stance” in opposition to the wall.
Never mind that this argument has no basis in cold, hard numbers. Illegal border crossings are at their lowest level in half a century. There is virtually no link between immigration and crime, and most of the illegal drugs flowing in from the south have come through legal ports of entry. Never mind that all nine congress(wo)men representing districts along the border oppose a wall, and that many sheriffs along the border don’t think a wall will solve everything.
But such little details didn’t deter Hice. He claimed that given the Democrats’ refusal to bend, “the president has now been forced into declaring a national emergency.”
And yet, just hours later, Trump all but admitted that he “didn’t need to do this.” So much for urgency.
As I write this on Friday night, there has been no reaction from Hice or the Freedom Caucus. Perhaps they’re trying to get the egg off their faces.
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