Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House, February 15, 2019 (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
Declaring a national emergency when there is no national emergency, Donald Trump lies about a migrant “invasion” of the US and praises hard-right commentators who pushed for the decision.
On Friday, Trump finally gave way to a Congressional bill ensuring funds for the Federal Government through September 30, including $1.375 billion for barriers on the US-Mexico border — but not a penny of the $5.7 billion of the money Trump demanded for his Wall — and allocations for other border security measures.
To cover the retreat, including the failure of his 35-day Trump Shutdown, Trump said:
One of the things we’d save tremendous — just a tremendous amount on would be sending the military. If we had a wall, we don’t need the military because we’d have a wall.
So I’m going to be signing a national emergency.
In a rambling statement, Trump declared falsely and hysterically: “It’s an invasion. We have an invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country.”
In fact, illegal crossing of the US-Mexico border have declined year-on-year since 2006. The large majority of illegal drugs are not moved across the border, but through US ports of entry.
Trying to pre-empt the actual situation, Trump insisted that Government reports on drug movements through ports of entry are a “lie”.
Trump was soon tangled in both his prepared text and in answers to reporters. At one point, he appeared to admit that the declaration was unncessary: “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster. I just want to get it done faster, that’s all.”
Presented by a journalist with Homeland Security data that “undocumented immigrants [are] committing crime at lower levels than native-born Americans”, Trump snapped, “The numbers that you gave are wrong. It’s a fake question.”
Trump’s declaration may soon be challenged in Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acceded to the national emergency statement to ensure that Trump did not veto the measure to fund the Government; however, he reportedly warned Trump that he has two weeks to make his case before a bipartisan effort to overturn the declaration.
Lawsuits are expected in multiple courts to block Trump. One has already been filed in Texas by a nature reserve and landowners.
But Trump tipped off that his plan may not be to construct the Wall, but to present himself as the defender against “invasion” — perhaps all the way through a 2020 campaign for re-election — against enemy legislators and judges.
We will have a national emergency, and then we will then be sued, and they will sue us in the Ninth Circuit, even though it shouldn’t be there. And we will possibly get a bad ruling, and then we’ll get another bad ruling. And then we’ll end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we’ll get a fair shake. And we’ll win in the Supreme Court.
White House officials said that they will seek $8 billion for barriers, including The Wall. In addition to the $1.375 billion in the Congressional bill, $3.6 billion will be taken from military construction projects, $2.5 billion from counternarcotics programs, and $600 million from a Treasury Department asset forfeiture fund.
The officials said they no longer plan to take money from the military’s disaster relief programs, covering reconstruction after hurricanes in Texas and Puerto Rico.
Trump dismissed concerns that diversion of military construction money will delay projects such as base housing, schools, and gyms: “It didn’t sound too important to me.”
Trump acknowledged the role of the hard right in his decision, after he faced harsh criticism earlier this week for being “weak” in accepting the bipartisan Congressional package.
Asked about the influence, he said of his friend and Fox TV commentator, “Sean Hannity has been a terrific, terrific supporter of what I do.”
He continued, “[Radio polemicist] Rush Limbaugh — I think he’s a great guy. Here’s a guy who can speak for three hours without a phone call. Try doing that sometime….This guy is unbelievable.”
Asked “Should they be deciding policy?”, Trump finally drew a line: “They don’t decide policy.”
He then spoke defensively about prominent hard-right activist Ann Coulter, who has long derided Trump for not pushing through The Wall:
Ann Coulter. I don’t know her. I hardly know her. I haven’t spoken to her in way over a year. But the press loves saying “Ann Coulter.” Probably, if I did speak to her, she’d be very nice. I just don’t have the time to speak to her. I would speak to her; I have nothing against her.
Last March, when Democrats were willing to give Trump full funding of the Wall, in return for a path to citizenship for about 800,000 “Dreamer” immigrants, Trump stepped away amid hard-right denunciations. And just before December’s record-setting shutdown, Trump was ready to sign the bipartisan funding measure — but then changed his mind amid pressure from commentators such as Hannity and Limbaugh.
This week White House staff, including former Fox staffer Bill Shine, reached out to the hard-right activists to ask them not to challenge Trump as options were considered.