Trump To Declare NATIONAL EMERGENCY Over Border Wall Fight
President Trump announced on Monday that he would address the nation from the Oval Office on Tuesday evening to discuss what he called the crisis at the southern border, and the White House said that later in the week he would travel to the border as part of his effort to persuade Americans of the need for a wall — the sticking point in negotiations with Democrats which caused a government shutdown.
It was not immediately clear which outlets would carry his address. The four major broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC — confirmed receiving the White House request on Monday for Mr. Trump to speak during the 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time slot, but producers had not decided whether to grant him the time. Pre-empting prime-time coverage is an expensive proposition for television executives, who have sold millions of dollars’ worth of advertising against entertainment programming.
Mr. Trump’s remarks could also be covered by cable news networks, which have a much smaller audience. CNN has agreed to air the address, a spokeswoman said on Monday. But cable news stations are accustomed to cutting in for breaking news, and they reach a far smaller audience than traditional broadcast stations.
In the recent past, White House requests to interrupt prime-time programming on the nation’s broadcast networks were rare and usually reserved for moments of national import, like the death of Osama bin Laden, and networks usually granted the requests. There have been instances, however, where such requests were rejected by producers as insufficiently newsworthy.
In an effort to justify his demands for a border wall, Mr. Trump has tried to paint the situation at the southern border as an imminent humanitarian and national security crisis, which Democrats and several immigration advocates argue is inaccurate.
The acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, has for days told other White House officials that a presidential address would be a way for Mr. Trump to try and recast the narrative around the shutdown fight.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, on Monday announced Mr. Trump’s plans to travel Thursday to the border, which would be the 20th day of the partial government shutdown if an agreement between Congress and the White House is not reached in the meantime.
Trump’s gambit comes as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gears up to pile political pressure on the GOP this week with a set of bills designed to open shuttered agencies and show that Democrats can provide credible government.
But since the Republican-led Senate will only act on a deal that Trump will sign, the parties remain as estranged as ever as the shutdown heads into a third week with hundreds of thousands of government workers unpaid.
“We’re looking at a national emergency because we have a national emergency — just read the papers,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Sunday.
Trump’s threat is a characteristic move from a President who often tries to escape a crisis by igniting an even bigger controversy, hoping to throw his enemies off balance and disguise his own vulnerable position.
But such a declaration could ignite a legal and political firestorm if he goes ahead, escalating the bitter showdown over the wall and his hardline immigration policies into a constitutional duel over executive power.
Talks over the weekend involving congressional staffers and led by Vice President Mike Pence failed to make meaningful progress toward ending the standoff. Trump is demanding more than $5 billion in wall funding before agreeing to reopen the government. Democrats have offered about $1.5 billion for border security, but no taxpayer dollars for a wall, which the President promised Mexico would pay for.
Both sides appear to be digging deeper into a showdown that is exacerbated because it is the first test of wills in the new era of divided government after Democrats took control of the House of Representatives last week.
“This shutdown could end tomorrow, and it could also go on for a long time. … It’s really dependent on the Democrats,” Trump said on Sunday.
But the Democrats are refusing to talk about Trump’s wall while the government remains partially closed.
“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,” said Democratic Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin on “Face the Nation” on CBS.
“This is the first President in history who shut down his own government,” he said.
The extent of disagreement was reflected in differing accounts of the fruitless attempts to negotiate a deal coming from each side.
A source in Sunday’s meeting involving Pence, White House staffers and congressional aides told CNN’s Manu Raju there was no real discussion about a dollar amount that could help unpick the deadlock.
So far, there has been little progress in the negotiations between congressional Democrats and the White House. The shutdown is the second longest in the nation’s history and affects about 800,000 federal workers, many of whom will not get paid for the first time this week.
Given Trump’s volubility, it is not always easy to judge whether his threats — like declaring a national emergency to fund the wall — are negotiating tactics, serious gambits or just ideas that occur in the spur of the moment.
But a bold claim of presidential power would be in line with his tendency to test the limits of his executive authority and his impatience with constitutional constraints.
Opinion in Washington is divided on whether Trump actually has the power to barge ahead on his own on the wall — despite opposition in Congress.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that Trump could not “execute” on his “threatening talk.”
“If Harry Truman couldn’t nationalize the steel industry during wartime, this President doesn’t have the power to declare an emergency and build a multibillion-dollar wall on the border. So, that’s a nonstarter,” Schiff said.
If Trump does make good on his threat to declare a national emergency, he would be on contested ground.
He would arguably be seeking to use unchecked executive power to subvert a coequal branch of government that has thwarted him in carrying out a personal political crusade.
And he would again be accused of using the military to further his own ends, as he was when he sent troops to the border region last year.
US law does give a President the authority at times of national emergency to defer Army construction plans that are not essential to national defense and to apply the resources to civil works projects that meet that test.
But such power is generally seen to be limited to a time of war or genuine national crisis. Trump’s declaration would likely face a legal challenge on the grounds that the situation at the border does not meet that sudden contingency. The judiciary and Congress also have the right to challenge a President’s definition of a national emergency.
Such a power play would also come at a time when there are already worries about the President’s impulsive leadership.
Constraints on Trump are weakened by the departure of moderating influences in his administration, like former Defense Secretary James Mattis.
He is currently being served by an acting defense secretary, an acting attorney general, an acting White House chief of staff and a White House counsel’s office that is regarded as understaffed.
Such aides may lack the authority or the desire to question the legality or wisdom of the President’s actions.
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