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Fri Jan 11, 2019, 04:48 PM

Welcome to Act III of the Trump Tragedy - By Andrew Sullivan

When is the moment we can say that Trump has clearly gone over the line in erasing democratic and constitutional restraints on his personal power?

I’d say declaring a national emergency when there isn’t one to fund a project he can’t get through Congress pretty obviously qualifies. Wouldn’t you?

He couldn’t manage to get his wall funded when his own party controlled the entire government. He even turned down a bipartisan offer to build a “wall” in return for a path to citizenship for Dreamers last year, because he wanted a reduction in legal immigration as well. He petulantly refuses to accept greater funding for border control and immigration enforcement if his symbolic wall isn’t part of the package. He says he intends to use the military to do what a civilian border force is constitutionally designed for. He even intends to seize private land in order to construct the Great Wall of America, using a military version of “eminent domain.” And he says he has the power to do all this anyway and is only negotiating with congressional leaders because he feels like it. His benchmark for when an emergency begins? When Nancy Pelosi refuses to budge. Which is proof that this “emergency” is pulled out of his giant, shapeless ass.

And for all this, he has shut down much of the federal government as leverage to get his way, jeopardizing public safety and health, disrupting the lives (and now paychecks) of millions.

The words he has used to justify all of this are an assault on liberal democratic norms and the rule of law. Emergency powers do exist in the event of a national security crisis — but, as David French has noted, they only apply in an actual national emergency that “may require” the use of the military and even then only for “already authorized” construction projects “essential” to “national defense.” These laws were designed to restrain the executive through the law, not to give him carte blanche to appropriate funds Congress has designated otherwise. The laws were never designed to enable the president to do things the Congress had never authorized (the 2006 funds for border fencing have already been used up), and which the Congress actively, indeed strongly, opposes.


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