The U.S. president wants to declare a national emergency for which there is no basis in fact. In this way, he wants to get the money for his controversial wall. This shows how little he values his country’s constitution.
It is hardly one week since the new Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made the tremendous power of the president clear at a hearing that has now already become legendary. Her appearance ultimately underscored this: the president can do what he wants, and if Ocasio-Cortez’s words weren’t enough, Donald Trump now seems to want to prove personally that no one is capable of doing anything. Really no one.
He is now going so far as to declare a national emergency, although one doesn’t actually exist, just because he could not get what he wanted through the democratic process: money from Congress to finally build his wall on the border with Mexico – which he insists is already almost finished even though not one meter of the wall has been built yet.
The wall is, even conservatives say, unnecessary, useless, a waste of money. It’s a given that not every political project makes sense. If Trump had had a majority in Congress, that would have been it. But he doesn’t.
Following the 2018 midterm elections, he now needs the Democrats’ approval to pass laws. The most recent compromise provides scarcely $1.4 billion for 90 kilometers (approximately 56 miles) of additional border fencing. Trump wanted $5.4 billion to build a wall nearly 300 kilometers long (approximately 186 miles). When Trump says that he is not happy with this result, it’s certainly true.
Trump could do with following the words of the Rolling Stones song he has played at the end of every campaign appearance: “No, you can’t always get what you want.” Wise words. That’s the way it is in democracy – one side doesn’t win everything and the other gets nothing. If Trump were a strategically savvy president, he would have sold this compromise as a first win.
But that’s not how Trump is. As long as it pleases his base, nothing is too sleazy for him – so he resorts to corruption to keep a campaign promise that half of the U.S. population thinks is outright nonsense.
Trump Disregards the US Constitution
What else could it be but a misuse of authority when Trump declares an emergency that, in fact, doesn’t exist on the border with Mexico? A crisis is a temporary emergency that compels immediate action. For years, the number of illegal border crossings into the U.S. has been massively decreasing – from more than 1.6 million immigrants in 2000 to fewer than 400,000 in 2018 – and of these, most of them didn’t travel over land after all, but instead by plane.
If there is a crisis, it is a humanitarian one. Because of the extensive violence and great poverty in some Latin American countries, families with children and grandparents are increasingly fleeing. Trump is doing nothing to counteract this crisis. Instead he wants to make people believe – contrary to all intelligence – that only dangerous criminals are coming.
Trump is criminalizing innocent people to keep his fans happy. He will be disregarding the rules of democracy and the U.S. Constitution if he now declares a national emergency.* In doing that, he is stretching and bending the law, and de facto, no one can stop him. Congress can’t, and the courts, too, might struggle. Up to now, no presidential state of emergency has ever been annulled by the Supreme Court.
Trump’s behavior is not only absurd. It is dangerous. If he acquires a taste for it, he could bypass Congress on practically any question by declaring a national emergency. The U.S. was once a proud democracy. Trump is currently reducing it to junk status.
*Editor’s note: This article was published immediately prior to President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on the border with Mexico on Feb. 15.