On Friday, Donald Trump declared a national emergency to obtain financing for his wall between the United States and Mexico. His presidency is an inferno that now threatens the country’s constitutional order.
In his defiant tone, as is the norm when his back is against the wall, the American president took his confrontation with Congress one step further by declaring a state of emergency under false pretenses. The construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border is necessary, he said, in order to contain a threat to national security that he summarized as “an invasion of our country with drugs, with human traffickers, with all types of criminals and gangs.” Xenophobes will be thrilled.
The crisis is very real. The stage on which it is taking place is not the border, but rather within the White House itself, once again providing us with tasteless vaudeville. In an erratic impromptu, the president twisted facts, vilifying the journalists he accused of asking “fake questions,” while mentioning, incidentally, that he deserved a Nobel Peace Prize. The presentation of this award, in exchange for his immediate resignation, would doubtlessly constitute the deal of the century, but let’s stop dreaming and get back to the facts.
Trump is already preparing for the next election, and he wants − at any cost − to fulfill his promise to construct a wall that, at least for his disillusioned conservative base, was one of the key moments during the last presidential election. He failed in his attempt to extort the Democratic House majority, from whom he wanted to extract financing for the wall in exchange for resuming normal federal government operations. The standoff, a quagmire of his own invention that lasted over a month and that he wrongly attributed to the Democrats, backfired. His decision on Jan. 25 to resume negotiations for another three weeks is nothing more than a serious setback. In declaring a national emergency, Trump will take $6.7 billion, which will be added to the $1.38 billion already authorized by Congress. The wall’s cost, originally $5.7 billion, will reach $8 billion.
The legality of this maneuver is dubious from a constitutional standpoint, which is why Democrats are entitled to demand judicial review. Trump, always arrogant, predicted that he would lose at first, and that an appeal to the Supreme Court would prove him right in the end, as was the case in his ban prohibiting people from certain majority Muslim countries from entering the United States.
This is the first time in history that a president has declared a national emergency, based on a false crisis, to obtain funds that were refused by Congress beforehand. This serious infringement on the separation of powers poses serious questions about the limits that can be imposed on a president who abuses his authority.
Before the issue goes as far as the Supreme Court, the House of Representatives and Senate would do better to invalidate this fake state of emergency. It’s within their power.