President Trump, the Border Wall, and the National Emergency That Isn't

FILE – In this Jan. 4, 2016 photo, a U.S. Border Patrol agent drives near the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Santa Teresa, N.M. Can Donald Trump really make good on his promise to build a wall along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexican border to prevent illegal migration? What’s more, can he make Mexico pay for it? Sure, he can build it, but it’s not nearly as simple as he says. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)


In 2016, when he was merely one choice in a sea of possibilities, Donald Trump talked up a border wall. The crowds at his raucous rallies ate it up. Tackling illegal immigration became the populist candidate’s main issue.

Two years later, there is still no wall.

As we languish in a government shutdown and are subjected to competing political theater performances, lackluster as they are, President Trump is dangling the threat of declaring a national emergency over Congress in an effort to accomplish his stalled goal. He said as much on Thursday morning before leaving for Texas.

“I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency. The lawyers have so advised me. I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency, I haven’t done it yet. I may do it. If this doesn’t work out I would almost say definitely.”

Overall, the crowds who cheered him on years ago are still in support of a wall and would like to see it done no matter what it takes. But these starry-eyed Republicans are acting like Obama supporters of the past. They want Trump’s agenda fulfilled no matter if it abuses the power of the presidency or not.

And declaring a national emergency for something that isn’t one is definitely abusing the privilege of the office.

Without a doubt, we must work to secure our southern border. But we should also be concerned about the northern border where illegal crossings have increased, and ports of entry, where the majority of illicit drugs like meth, cocaine, and heroin enter the country. (The latter is entirely opposite of what the president claimed in his address on Tuesday night.)


Yes, there are problems, but they are not only at the southern border. Most importantly, they didn’t just appear and create a crisis situation where none previously existed.

Jonah Goldberg over at National Review summed it up quite nicely, emphasis mine.

…declaring a national state of emergency to use military powers to solve a problem that was no less “grave” a year ago is grotesque.

…the real crisis isn’t a national-security one, it’s a political one for Trump. And even if you favor a wall or enhanced border security that is not an argument for the president formally declaring a national emergency when there isn’t one and deploying the military without congressional approval on American soil.

That would be a serious abuse of power, and Congress shouldn’t stand for it — one way, or another.

Unfortunately, too many who count themselves among the GOP actually would stand for this kind of executive overreach. It is this uncritical, unwavering, unthinking cheerleading that has become a hallmark of the Trumpian Right.

Somehow, during the first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency, no national emergency existed at the southern border. Miraculously, once the Democrats took back the House at midterms, an emergency of epic proportions appeared! Suddenly!

Merely a political crisis, indeed.

It’s patently obvious where the president is coming from with all this: he faces two years of a split Congress, the Mueller investigation continues, and that 2020 campaign season is right around the corner. He needs it. What better way to head into the next election cycle with a win that beats the Schumer/Pelosi Democrats and fulfills the greatest of all delayed campaign promises?


However desperate the president may be, stepping outside the clear definitions of presidential power is not the way to approach the issue. And if Republicans don’t want to be like their hypocritical Democratic counterparts, they shouldn’t support this potential action.

But I know they probably will.

Kimberly Ross is a senior contributor at RedState and a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


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