On Friday, President Trump held a press availability to make claims about his “big beautiful wall” on the Mexico border that was incoherent nonsense. Video Link.
REPORTER: Mr. President, why not just go ahead and do the national emergency now? (talk over)
TRUMP: We’re building the wall now. We’re building the wall. People don’t understand that, they’re starting to learn. We’re spending a lot of money that we have on hand. It’s like in a business, but we have money on hand, and we’re building, I would say we will have 115 miles of wall, maybe a little more than that shortly. Uh, it’s being built. Some of it’s already completed. And in San Diego, if you look, it’s been completed. It’s really beautiful, brand new. Uh, we have other wall that’s under construction, and we’re giving out a lot of contracts. So we’re building the wall. It’s getting built one way or the other.
REPORTER: Is there another option besides a national emergency?
TRUMP: Uh, we are doing things right now. I mean we’re building it with funds that are on hand. We’re negotiating very tough prices. We’ve designed a much better looking wall that is also, actually, a better wall, which is an interesting combination. It’s far more beautiful and it’s better. It’s much more protective. But it looks better, because the walls they used to build were not very attractive. Iactually think that’s possibly part of the problem. The real problem is we need to have something. We have to have a very strong barrier. But we’re building a lot of wall right now as we speak, and we’re renovating a lot of wall. And we’re getting ready to give out some very big contracts with money that we have on hand, and money that comes in. But we will be looking at a national emergency cause I don’t think anything is going to happen. I think Democrats don’t want border security. And when I hear them talking about the fact that walls are immoral and walls don’t work, they know they work.
Let’s review: The Republican Congress appropriated $1.7 billion to build or replace fencing on the southern border, but Trump has only spent 6 percent of the ‘wall’ money. (This is the improvements to the wall in San Diego that he mentions, it is not a new wall). Trump has had the U.S. military add concertina wire to existing border walls and fencing, which in no way is “far more beautiful” and better.
Congress has not appropriated one dime for his “big beautiful wall” on the Mexico border that he told his MAGA supporters Mexico would pay for during the 2016 election. Trump just shut down the government for over a month, taking Americans hostage and demanding ransom from Congress for his border wall. Trump caved in for a short-term CR spending bill that did not give him one dime for his “big beautiful wall” on the Mexico border.
Trump is now claiming an imaginary wall is “being built from available funds.” No, it is not. Congress has not appropriated any funds to build his “big beautiful wall” on the Mexico border. His wall is not being built.
More importantly, Trump’s claim that the wall is “being built from available funds” entirely undercuts the case for his declaring a national emergency so he can redirect money appropriated for the U.S. Armed Forces for use in building his border wall.
If all of this sounds crazy, it’s because it is. Comedian Bill Maher Mocked Trump’s Incoherent Border Wall Babbling: ‘I Can’t Tell Where The Lies End And The Dementia Begins’:
During his opening monologue this Friday, Real Time host Bill Maher took a swipe at Trump’s incoherent babbling on the border wall … and the very frightening prospect that he’s so out of touch with reality that he may be basing his “wall” policy on the fictional movie Sicario:
Today, the bullshit rose past eye level. I mean, I’ve been worried before, but now Trump is saying he’s already built the wall, he said, with cash on hand. Then why did we just have this fucking government shutdown?
He said, “We are building a wall, a lot of wall, let me tell you right now, right now we’re building, and we’re getting ready to give out very, very big contracts with some money we have on hand. But, we will be looking at a national emergency, because I don’t think anything’s going to happen.”
You get that? We’re building a lot of wall, so we need a national emergency, because otherwise we can’t build a wall. I can’t tell where the lies end and the dementia begins. He is basing… listen to this.
He’s basing his wall policy now on the movie Sicario 2. I’m not making this up. In Sicario, I saw the movie, and people have prayer rugs on the border, you know, Muslims… and this is not happening. In the movie there’s mothers, we’re binding women with duct tape. He cites this as if he cannot tell fiction from reality.
Today he announced we’re putting a 15 percent tariff on vibranium. Vibranium? What did I say? He said “Trade with Wakanda, very unfair!”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has warned Trump not to declare a national emergency for his border wall. McConnell reportedly warned Trump about emergency declaration to build border wall. McConnell told Trump the Senate could pass a resolution disapproving the emergency declaration. (McConnell is more concerned about setting a precedent that a Democratic president could use to declare a national emergency to pursue his or her agenda).
Gerald S. Dickinson, a constitutional law and property professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, explains at the Washington Post that The National Emergencies Act was never meant for something like Trump’s wall:
With the federal government now reopened, President Trump is threatening to invoke the National Emergencies Act as a lever to find money for the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border — a policy that Congress very clearly does not support. Soon after announcing Friday that he would sign legislation to fund the government for three weeks, Trump declared, “If I don’t get a fair deal from Congress … I will use the powers afforded to me … to address this emergency.” He says he has the “absolute right” to declare a national emergency and order the military to build the wall to stop the threat of “illegal immigration” in the country. But the real threat is the specter of a sitting president wielding emergency powers to implement a public policy he can’t persuade Congress, let alone the public, to support. The law Trump is threatening to use was never meant to allow something like this.
Throughout the mid-1970s, Congress debated whether to terminate certain authorities given to the president to declare a national emergency. In particular, U.S. involvement in Vietnam and Cambodia piqued the interest of several members of Congress, who demanded a special study of the consequences of terminating a 1950 national emergency proclamationregarding the Vietnam War. At the time, the nation had technically been under a state of emergency for more than 40 years. Those emergency powers were extraordinary: The president could, among other things, restrict travel, seize property, organize and control the means of production and assign military forces abroad.
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To temper the potentially dictatorial powers available to the president, Congress stepped in to enact the National Emergencies Act to ensure that proper safeguards were in place to allow for congressional review when the president declared an emergency.
Sens. Frank Church (D-Idaho) and Charles Mathias (R-Md.) were especially interested in getting the act passed as soon as possible. Their bipartisan efforts stand in sharp contrast to today’s hyperpartisan political climate over the border wall fight.
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As co-chairs of the Special Committee on the Termination of National Emergencies, Church and Mathias led a bipartisan effort to study the history of national emergencies. They reported grave concerns about the powers granted to the executive before then. Their objection to granting “absolute” power was founded on legitimate principles of limiting executive powers and, at the very least, giving Congress oversight authority when the president invoked the powers.
It’s clear from the congressional record that Church and Mathias were acutely aware of and sought to prohibit a future president from taking advantage of the emergency powers for partisan and policy purposes. They worked for several years to persuade colleagues to insert provisions into the bill to ensure that Congress would exercise continuing oversight of any future emergencies. Although congressional testimony and legislative history is not binding law, they serve as a useful window to peer into statements made long ago by those who once debated the very law that has generated so much controversy among members from Congress — and the public — today.
Perhaps most enlightening is Church’s testimony during a hearing before the Committee on Government Operations on Feb. 25, 1976. There, he explained that the president “should not be allowed to invoke emergency authorities or in any way utilize the provision of [the National Emergencies Act] for frivolous or partisan matters, nor for that matter in cases where important but not ‘essential’ problems are at stake.”
Trump’s threat to declare an emergency is an arguably “frivolous” and “partisan” matter unconnected and unrelated to defending the country from an “essential” problem. Illegal immigration across the southwest border is an “important” problem to address — and Congress has already given, in the Secure Fence Act of 2006, the secretary of Homeland Security the power to take action that is “necessary and appropriate” to secure the border with fencing and patrol. In fact, the offer from Democrats during negotiations to reopen the government to approve additional funding for border securityadvances prior efforts by Congress under the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
But the situation along the border arguably does not rise, in the words of Church, to an “essential” problem now, nor is the construction of a physical contiguous border wall a necessary solution. (It’s hard to take seriously the idea that a years-long construction project is an emergency action, if only because it wouldn’t have any effect until well into the future.) Illegal crossings are at the lowest ebb since the Clinton administration. Although Trump cites migrant caravans as evidence of an emergency, those caravans are not crossing the border illegally but, rather, arriving at legal ports of entry to request asylum, as the law permits. Half of the undocumented immigrants in the United States arrive legally through airports but then overstay their visas. Likewise, there is simply no empirical evidence to suggest that thousands of terrorists are crossing the border illegally.
All this strongly suggests that threatening to invoke an emergency to build the wall is a “frivolous” decision influenced by partisanship, not by responding to an essential problem.
Church’s parting words in his 1976 testimony are noteworthy: “Congress should be forewarned that it is inherent in the nature of modern government that the Executive will seek to enlarge its power in small ways and large.” That’s exactly what Trump is trying to do today.