The true author of The Art of the Deal, Tony Schwartz, confessed “I put lipstick on a pig,” and expressed remorse for creating the mythology that Donald Trump is a great negotiator. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All. If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”
Donald Trump has just demonstrated that he is the “Worst. Negotiator. Ever.” A year ago, Democrats put $25 billion on the table to build his “big beautiful wall on the Mexico border” that he said Mexico would pay for, agreeing to pay ransom for a comprehensive agreement on DACA eligible immigrants to have a pathway to citizenship. Trump had said he “would sign whatever bill they (Congress) send me.” There’s even video. But Trump rejected that deal, choosing to listen to his racist white nationalist adviser Stephen Miller who demanded deep reductions in legal immigration to the United States.
Fast forward to this past December. The spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security that congressional leaders and President Trump agreed to included $1.6 billion for 65 miles of fencing. Then Fox News, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh convinced him to renege on the deal and he demand $5 billion for his “big beautiful wall on the Mexico border” that he said Mexico would pay for. The Trump Shutdown lasted 35 days, and he did not get one dime for his wall in the short-term CR spending bill.
The current legislation approved by Congress last night only provides $1.375 billion to build 55 miles of barrier (not his wall) in the Rio Grande Valley, a small fraction of what Trump demanded before triggering his Trump Shutdown.
As Aaron Blake of the Washington Post wryly noted: “Trump could have taken $1.6 billion and/or declared a national emergency last year, before all this went down; he will have gotten basically nothing for shutting down the government for 35 days.”
Actually, Trump could have taken $25 billion for his wall, and he negotiated himself down to $1.375 billion for border security and no wall. “Worst. Negotiator. Ever.”
In November 2014, when President Obama announced a range of executive actions on immigration, including the expanded use of “deferred action” to protect parents of US citizen children from deportation (DAPA and DACA), Donald Trump tweeted:
Now the “Worst. Negotiator. Ever.” has declared a national emergency (one that does not exist) to use executive orders in an end-run around the constitutional appropriation powers of the Congress. House passes border deal, setting up Trump to declare emergency:
While Trump’s vow to declare a national emergency is being welcomed by conservatives, members on both sides of the aisle expressed concerns it could set a bad precedent. (Republicans defy Trump on national emergency).
“Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that President Trump broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a joint statement.
“It is yet another demonstration of President Trump’s naked contempt for the rule of law. This is not an emergency, and the president’s fearmongering doesn’t make it one.”
And Speaker Pelosi had a pointed warning for Republicans seeking to mollify their “Dear Leader.” Pelosi warns GOP: Next president could declare national emergency on guns:
“A Democratic president can declare emergencies, as well,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. “So the precedent that the president is setting here is something that should be met with great unease and dismay by the Republicans.”
Pelosi noted that Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 students and faculty dead. She argued that the real national emergency is not illegal border crossings, but gun violence in the U.S.
“Let’s talk about today: The one-year anniversary of another manifestation of the epidemic of gun violence in America,” Pelosi said. “That’s a national emergency. Why don’t you declare that emergency, Mr. President? I wish you would.
“But a Democratic president can do that.”
You can almost hear Republicans’ sphincters tighten in a collective butt pucker at the mere thought. Take it seriously, boys, Nancy means it.
The Department of Justice has warned the White House a national emergency declaration is nearly certain to be blocked by the courts on, at least, a temporary basis, preventing the immediate implementation of the president’s plan to circumvent Congress and build the wall using his executives powers. National emergency will be blocked by courts temporarily, DOJ warns White House.
Previously, the “Enemy of the People,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell privately cautioned Trump about an emergency declaration on border wall, telling him the move could trigger political blowback and divide the GOP, according to two Republicans with knowledge of the exchange.
But Thursday, despite previously expressing skepticism for the plan, McConnell announced that he would support the president’s move. “I think he ought to feel free to use whatever tools he can legally use to enhance his effort to secure the border, so no I would not be troubled by that,” the Senate leader told reporters. Former GOP House Intel chair: McConnell eating ‘manure sandwich’ with Trump’s national emergency:
Former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) told CNN on Friday that McConnell was not happy to endorse Trump’s plan to declare a national emergency in order to reallocate funding for construction of a border wall.
“You can tell, in the mannerisms, in the body language, in the language itself, of Mitch McConnell…he’s where he is because he thought it would be expedient to make sure the government didn’t shut down,” he added.
“He’s not yet enjoying that manure sandwich this morning,” he quipped again, moments later.
Well, Mitch, most legal experts agree it is not legal. See, for example, Gerald S. Dickinson, constitutional law and property professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. The National Emergencies Act was never meant for something like Trump’s wall.
But before that, Mitch, Nancy Pelosi is going to jam Republicans. Here’s how.
Pelosi has a much more immediate way to challenge Trump’s declaration. Under the National Emergencies Act, or NEA, both chambers of Congress can pass a resolution terminating any presidentially declared national emergency.
[I]f Pelosi exercises this option, it will ultimately require the Senate to vote on it in some form as well. The NEA stipulates that if one chamber (Pelosi’s House) passes such a resolution, which it easily could do, the other (McConnell’s Senate) must act on it within a very short time period — forcing GOP senators to choose whether to support it.
Alternatively, Goitein notes, the Senate could vote not to consider that resolution or change its rules to avoid such a vote. But in those scenarios, the Senate would, in effect, be voting to greenlight Trump’s emergency declaration.
Republicans themselves have let it be known that they fear this scenario.
GOP senators would have to decide between going on record in favor of a presidential declaration of a national emergency for something that everyone knows is based on false pretenses, a move that would be opposed by two-thirds of the country, or opposing it and possibly forcing a Trump veto (which they then would have to decide whether to override), enraging Trump’s base.
The ominous headlines today tell the story:
As Eugene Robinson writes today, We have a national emergency, all right. Its name is Donald Trump.
We have a national emergency, all right. Its name is Donald Trump, and it is a force of mindless, pointless disruption.
The president’s decision to officially declare an emergency — to pretend to build an unbuildable border wall — is not only an act of constitutional vandalism. It is also an act of cowardice, a way to avoid the wrath of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the far-right commentariat.
It is an end run around Congress and, as such, constitutes a violation of his oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” — which gives Congress, not the president, the authority to decide how public money is spent. It does not give Trump the right to fund projects that Congress will not approve. Authoritarian leaders do that sort of thing. The puffed-up wannabe strongman now living in the White House is giving it a try.
Let’s be clear: There is no emergency. Arrests for illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border peaked in 2000, nearly two decades ago, at more than 1.5 million a year. They declined sharply under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and, in 2017, were at their lowest point since 1971. In 2018, apprehensions ticked up slightly — but still barely climbed above 400,000.
There has indeed been an increase in families presenting themselves at legal points of entry to seek asylum — those groups of bedraggled Central Americans that Trump calls “caravans.” Under U.S. and international law, these people have an undisputed right to ask for asylum and have their cases evaluated. Again, they come to legal border crossings to seek admission. Only a handful try to navigate the forbidding rural terrain where Trump says he wants to build a wall.
Trump had two years in which Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate — and could not persuade Congress to give him funding for a wall. He decided to make it an issue only after Democrats won the power to say no. The president’s negotiating strategy — pitching tantrums, walking away from the table, venting on Twitter, provoking the longest partial government shutdown in history — was never going to work. You might think he would have learned something about how Washington works by now, but you would be wrong.
Because there obviously is no legitimate emergency, Trump’s declaration — and the shifting of resources from duly authorized projects to the wall — will surely be challenged in court. It is possible, if not likely, that any actual construction will be held up indefinitely.
UPDATE: Exhibit A to plaintiffs’ pleadings soon to be filed, from Steve Benen:
Trump’s response to a question from NBC News’ Peter Alexander was probably the one thing Trump will regret saying.
In reference to border-wall construction, the Republican explained why he’s circumventing Congress and the legislative appropriations process.
“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…. I just want to get it done faster, that’s all.”
The president’s own explanation left little doubt that there’s no pressing “emergency” demanding unprecedented emergency action. Trump effectively admitted that he sees this as a matter of convenience: the American policymaking process would take time, and he’d “rather do it much faster.”
If you’re thinking these unscripted comments might be used against the White House in future litigation, you’re [right].
Eugene Robinson continues:
Indeed, legal briefs arguing against Trump’s action practically write themselves. An emergency, by definition, is urgent. The 9/11 terrorist attacks, for example, clearly qualified as a national emergency. But Trump has been talking about issuing an emergency declaration to build the wall for a couple of months. If such action wasn’t necessary in December, some judge will surely ask, then why now?
Money for the wall will have to be taken from other projects, all of which have constituencies in Congress and among the public. Ranchers and others whose land would have to be taken by eminent domain for the wall will be up in arms.
* * *
One of the most strident Republican criticisms of Obama was that he took executive actions that should have been the purview of Congress. But this action by Trump goes much further and sets a dangerous precedent.
What would keep the next Democratic president from declaring an emergency, in the wake of some mass shooting, and imposing a ban on assault weapons? Is that what McConnell wants as his legacy?
Trump cares only that his base is mollified. And that nobody remembers how Mexico was supposed to foot the bill.