Friday, February 15, 2019

"I didn't need to do this, but I'd rather do it much faster."

"I went through Congress.  I made a deal.  I got almost $1.4 billion when I wasn't supposed to get $1.  Not $1.  He's not going to get $1.  Well, I got $1.4 billion, but I'm not happy with it.  I also got billions and billions of dollars for other things.  Port of entries.  Lots of different things.  The purchase of drug equipment.  More than we were even requesting.  But the primary fight was on the wall.  Everything else we have so much as I said, I don't know what to do with it.  We have so much money.  But on the wall they skimped.  So I was successful in that sense, but I want to do it faster.  I could do the wall over a longer period of time.  I didn't need to do this, but I'd rather do it much faster."
President Trump, February 15, 2019, to Peter Alexander on the national emergency declaration to secure funding for the border wall.

Sometimes, the lede just falls into your lap.  There's no better way to show why today is so troubling than President Trump's own words.  "I didn't need to do this, but I'd rather do it much faster."

President Trump formally declared a national emergency at the border on Friday to enable him to divert $3.6 billion budgeted for military construction project to the border wall, as well as diverting additional funding from counter-narcotics programs and asset forfeiture.  Combined with the $1.375 billion that Congress authorized in the agreement reached to avert another government shutdown, President Trump will have about $8 billion to advance construction on his wall.

Trump's comments came in answer to a question from Peter Alexander, a journalist at NBC.  In doing so, Trump concedes there is no need for a national emergency declaration.

In other words, "I didn't need to declare a national emergency to build my wall, but I'm going to so that I can get my way."  It's a statement that can be used to sum up both the lack of need for the declaration and the lack of need for a wall in the first place.

It's also a sentiment that can be used to describe much of Trump's decision process.  "I want it.  I should have it.  I'm going to get it."  Damn the consequences and damn the facts.

Because the facts reveal why a wall is not necessary.
  • The number of apprehensions at the Southwest border remains historically low, after peaking in 2000 and sharply declining since.
  • The total illegal immigrant population in the United States has dropped since 2005.
  • Nearly twice as many people left the undocumented population from Mexico than arrived in the 2008 to 2015 period.
  • Overstaying a legal visa is now almost twice as likely as an illegal entry.  A wall would not address this issue.
  • 52% of people who cross the border illegally are already returned to their country within 3 days.  “Existing enforcement measures are highly efficient at repatriating Mexicans, convicted criminals, and single adults who do not seek humanitarian relief,” according to an August 2018 Department of Homeland Security report, which noted that 97 percent of those with criminal records were repatriated.
  • The wall will not stop the flow of drugs into the United States. The 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment says the Southwest border “remains the primary entry point for heroin into the United States.” But it says “the majority of the [heroin] flow” comes through legal ports of entry in privately owned vehicles and tractor-trailers.  In other words, the drugs would continue to come through the vehicles that pass through any wall.
  • Claims for asylum have been increasing since the end of 2017, particularly from Central America.  A wall will not address asylum claims, particularly as this is (or at least was) a legal form of immigration.
  • There is no credible information that any member of a terrorist group has traveled through Mexico to gain access to the United States, according to the United States State Department, as of July 2017.  Generally, the people on the terrorist watch list who were encountered by Homeland security tried to enter either through airports or by sea.
  • Finally, the number of illegal immigrants encountered at the border on a daily basis has been grossly misrepresented.  There are not 2,000 illegal immigrants a day at the Southern border.  This number includes "inadmissibles."  People who show up at legal entry points and are turned back or who apply for asylum.  Those are legal encounters.
Beyond the hyperbole surrounding the need for a wall, the declaration of a national emergency for this purpose is disturbing, to say the least.  Based on the National Emergencies Act enacted in 1976, the president is permitted to pronounce a national emergency when he considers it appropriate.  By declaring a national emergency, the president avails himself of dozens of specialized laws, including granting access to funds the president could not access otherwise.  The emergency powers lapse within a year unless the president renews them, and they can be renewed indefinitely, as is done frequently.

Much has been made by the ultra-Conservative press that there have been 58 national emergencies pronounced, of which 31 are still in effect.  There is a vast difference between those emergencies and the current situation, however.  The overwhelming majority of the declared emergencies have been economic sanctions against foreign actors whose activities pose a national threat.  Only twice have they been used to redirect money without explicit congressional authorization: when President George HW Bush used it in the run-up to the Persian Gulf War and when President George W. Bush used it following 9/11.  Both of those involved United States involvement in a military action.

The President's current usage of the emergency declaration sets a dangerous precedent.  It has been invoked when the facts do not support a crisis.  When the President's own declaration does not support immediate and exigent circumstances.  The President is invoking it because he feels like it.  Because he wants it.  And he floated several trials to let us know he intended to do so.

What prevents a future president from enacting a national emergency and circumventing Congressional approval and funding for a semi-automatic weapons ban in response to the crisis surrounding gun violence in schools?  To declare high taxes and penalties on oil, coal, and other fossil fuels in response to the crisis surrounding climate change and our contribution?

And those are the more benign uses.  What happens when a president decides to declare a national emergency to institute an internment camp for Muslims following several "credible threats" of terroristic activity?  Or would that actually be palatable to a good portion of the country?  

This is a gross abuse of power and it shows.

I had intended today to start and title the blog with background on the Reichstag fire.  An arson attack on the Reichstag building, the home of German parliament, on Monday, February 27, 1933.  Four weeks after Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany.  Hitler's government determined that Marinus van der Lubbe, a Dutch communist started the fire and, despite the evidence that van der Lubbe acted alone, and used the fire as pretext that communists were plotting against the German government.  The fire was used to pass the Reichstag Fire Decree, a declaration under Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, establishing national emergency in which the German Chancellor could take any measure necessary to protect public safety.  This included the indefinite suspension of civil liberties like habeas corpus, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, the right of free association and public assembly, and the secrecy of post and telephone.  The government then began mass arrests of communists; a start to the arrests of any opposition or undesirables.  

The Reichstag fire today has come to refer to a false flag action perpetrated or facilitated by an authority to promote their own interests through popular approval of retribution or retraction of civil rights.  It is seen as one of the prime precipitating events that allowed Hitler to move from Chancellor to dictator, pivotal in the establishment of Nazi Germany.

I know the comparisons of Trump to Hitler are overplayed, but there is a reason they keep popping up.  If Trump doesn't want to be compared to dictators, then perhaps he should stop borrowing pages from their playbook.

Stoke populist, reactionary sentiment - check
Stoke nativist, nationalistic sentiment - check
Dismiss political staff that doesn't agree with him - check
Discredit news media - check
Praise previous dictatorships - check

And now we have a fabricated national emergency precipitated on trumped up crimes perpetrated by a group of people the President has continually de-humanized.  "These aren't people.  These are animals.

If the President thinks this is his Reichstag fire, he may want to reconsider.  Support is split on the border wall - 47% support it, 47% oppose it.  The majority (64%), though, opposed Trump using emergency declaration to fund itCalifornia is to sue Trump over the declarationDemocrats and many Republicans are opposed to this political overreach.

And referencing his own statement again, he may have provided the very evidence that will prove key in overturning this declaration.

"I didn't need to do this."


  1. I can't get past this trace, this fascination, this hypnotic state people are in presently. Mitch, I do not understand it.

  2. I can only figure it’s more profitable. Create echo chambers and keep people addicted.

    The discussion on your post got interesting quick.