One of the go-to media story genres during the first two years of the Trump administration, along with “Conservatives pounce,” has been the “Bipartisan group of [group] issues letter condemning [fill in a Trump action here]. Like “Bipartisan group of janitors issues letter condemning Trump’s choice of toilet paper.” Now we have the latest edition, Former senior national security officials issue declaration on national emergency.
WaPo: "A bipartisan group of 58 former senior national security officials will issue a statement Monday saying that 'there is no factual basis' for President Trump’s proclamation of a national emergency to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border." https://t.co/fEBtLp3JAm
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) February 25, 2019
The president — already facing opposition on his national emergency declaration from House Democrats and a collection of state attorneys general — will on Monday have to contend with a rebuke by a bipartisan group of 58 former national security officials https://t.co/ETvkcywBVN
— POLITICO (@politico) February 25, 2019
A bipartisan group of 58 former senior national security officials — including Madeleine Albright and Chuck Hagel — say that “there is no factual basis” for Trump’s proclamation of a national emergency. #FakeTrumpEmergency https://t.co/ZK46XilDoZ
— Democratic Coalition (@TheDemCoalition) February 25, 2019
A bipartisan group of 58 former senior national security officials issued a statement Monday saying that “there is no factual basis” for President Trump’s proclamation of a national emergency to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The joint statement, whose signatories include former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former defense secretary Chuck Hagel, comes a day before the House is expected to vote on a resolution to block Trump’s Feb. 15 declaration.
“Under no plausible assessment of the evidence is there a national emergency today that entitles the president to tap into funds appropriated for other purposes to build a wall at the southern border,” the group said.
Similarly, they state that there is no drug trafficking emergency that can be addressed by a wall along the southern border, noting that “the overwhelming majority of opioids” that enter the United States are brought in through legal ports of entry, citing the Justice Department.
They also argue that redirecting money pursuant to the national emergency declaration “will undermine U.S. national security and foreign policy interests.” And, they assert, “a wall is unnecessary to support the use of the armed forces,” as the administration has said.
Some of the same former officials wrote a joint declaration disputing the factual basis for the president’s order shortly after he took office in January 2017 barring entry to foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The former officials asserted that the order was not based on a bona fide national security assessment but on “a deliberate political decision to discriminate against a religious minority.”
There are a few notable points in this screed. First, the letter is a bipartisan group in the same way that a letter from the Soviet Politburo would have been bipartisan. The people who signed on were either the profoundly and disturbingly stupid (I’m looking at you, Chuck Hagel), Vichy/NeverTrump Republicans who are subscribers to The Bulwark, and Democrat functionaries. Via Conservative Review:
Running the numbers on the so-called national security experts shows that the group is hardly bipartisan: 47 of 58 signatories to the letter served in the Obama administration. The roster is a who’s who of several high-profile Obama personnel, including:
- Former Secretary of State John Kerry
- Former CIA Director John Brennan
- Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper
- Former National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon
- Former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano
- Former UN Ambassador Samantha Power
- Former CIA Director Leon Panetta
- Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice
Another six of the signatories to the letter served in the Clinton administration. That leaves just five who served in the Bush 43 administration. All of the self-identified Republicans who served in the Bush administration — John Bellinger, Nicholas Burns, Eliot Cohen, Jendayi Frazer, and John McLaughlin — have publicly denounced President Trump and/or signed letters opposing him. A few of the 47 Obama officials who were carried over to the Trump administration have publicly attacked the sitting president. There is not one pro-Trump voice among the 58 signatories.
It still remains unclear what organization was behind gathering the signatures. For reasons unknown, none of the dozens of well-sourced national security reporters who wrote about the document disclosed where it came from. However, the letter does state that the signatures are on file with Yale Law School Professor Harold Koh, who was a political appointee under President Obama.
Factually, as has been reported here (read my post President Trump’s Emergency Declaration Is Much Less Radical Than TDS Sufferers Are Claiming) most of the money President Trump aims to use either has been appropriated for building the wall or can be reprogrammed without either an Emergency Declaration or Congressional action…and he can do that because Congress gave him the authority. Determining an emergency exists and what is an appropriate use of the armed forces is not something that any number, finite or infinite, of former officials have a vote on. Their opinion might be of interest to them but that is about the limit of its usefulness.
If you look closely you’ll notice a bit of “wet streets cause rain” logic. The fact that most opioids are intercepted at points of entry doesn’t really mean that the wall will have no effect. Of course, most are intercepted at points of entry because that is where the wall and the police are. Where there is no wall and on law enforcement presence, you aren’t going to seize very much.
Ultimately, this letter and the news coverage of it is simply theater. No one really cares what Madeline Albright or John Kerry or John Brennan think. This is just another and, ultimately, futile lashing out by those who see themselves as the elite who rules despite the will of the people.
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