The imperial president threatens to close the U.S.-Mexico border


Jonathan Swan warns at Axios, “President Trump and his chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, have realized they’re passing no major legislation through this divided Congress.” Trump goes it alone:

[T]he Trump team is busy figuring out ways to go over the heads of Congress. The one exception is drug pricing.)

What to expect: More executive orders, more foreign deals sealed by a presidential signature rather than congressional approval, and more creative applications of the law — for example, declaring a national emergency to build the wall — to get Trump what he wants.

In other words, an “imperial presidency.” Exactly what one would expect from an authoritarian who prefers the company of murderous despots.

So what fresh new hell does the always insecure egomaniacal white nationaist twitter-troll-in-chief have in store this week? Trump White House presses threat to close U.S.-Mexico border this week:

The White House doubled down Sunday on President Trump’s threat to close the U.S. border with Mexico, despite warnings that the move would inflict immediate economic damage on American consumers and businesses while doing little to stem a tide of migrants clamoring to enter the United States.

Sealing the border with Mexico, America’s third-largest trading partner, would disrupt supply chains for major U.S. automakers, trigger swift price increases for grocery shoppers and invite lawsuits against the federal government, according to trade specialists and business executives.

“First, you’d see prices rise in­cred­ibly fast. Then . . . we would see layoffs within a day or two,” said Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas in Nogales, Ariz. “This is not going to help border security.”

Two of the president’s most senior aides nonetheless defended the move on the Sunday news shows. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on ABC News’s “This Week” that it would take “something dramatic” to persuade the president to abandon his border-closing plans. And Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway insisted on “Fox News Sunday” that the president’s threat “certainly isn’t a bluff.”

Trump sparked the latest immigration-related controversy Friday when he complained to reporters about Mexico’s failure to stem the migrant influx, a point he underscored in a tweet the next day. “If they don’t stop them, we are closing the border. We’ll close it. And we’ll keep it closed for a long time. I’m not playing games,” Trump said Friday.

Administration officials have offered no details about the president’s intentions, and border control officials have received no instructions to prepare for a shutdown, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the issue. Implementing such an order would require time to notify Congress and labor unions representing Border Patrol agents and customs officers, the official said.

A Pentagon spokesman said the military, which has about 5,300 troops in the border region, has not received such orders either.

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Closing the border could complicate efforts to secure congressional ratification of Trump’s new trade deal with Mexico and Canada, said economist Phil Levy, who worked on trade issues in the White House under President George W. Bush and is now a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the signature achievement (sic) thus far of the president’s “America First” trade offensive, faces an uphill battle in Congress. (See, Trump Loves the New Nafta. Congress Doesn’t.).

The U.S.-Mexico border is a key artery in the global economy, with more than $611 billion in cross-border trade last year, according to the Commerce Department. Each day, more than 1,000 trucks cross the border at the port of Calexico East, Calif., while more than 11 daily international trains go through Laredo, Tex., according to the U.S. Transportation Department.

* * *

Even a border slowdown could create shortages of goods and services and lead to higher prices for consumers, he said, adding: “If you want to create an economic crisis, then shutting down the border will create an economic crisis.”

The economic consequences of a complete shutdown would be immediate and severe, trade specialists said, with automakers and American farmers among the first to feel the pain.

“It’s unworkable and unrealistic, and I don’t think he could really do it,” said Rufus Yerxa, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, which represents multinational corporations. “There would certainly be legal challenges from lots and lots of companies.”

* * *

Stephen Legomsky, professor emeritus at the Washington University School of Law and former chief counsel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said closing the ports would likely end up in court because it would violate federal immigration laws.

Trump “cannot close every port on the border,” Legomsky said. “If he did so, he would effectively undermine the entire congressional scheme for who may enter the U.S. and who may not.”

Closing the border is also unlikely to stanch the influx of asylum seekers, he said, because federal law authorizes them to request protection once they step on U.S. soil. “If anything, closing the authorized points would just drive more traffic between the ports of entry where people can enter illegally,” he said.

Administration officials insist that inaction is not an option. About 100,000 migrants are believed to have arrived at the border this month, Mulvaney said, a human tide that has overwhelmed U.S. authorities and sparked profound partisan disagreement over potential remedies.

On Saturday, Trump tweeted: “Our detention areas are maxed out & we will take no more illegals. Next step is to close the Border!”

It is time to rein in this “imperial presidency” before this authoritarian wannabe tinpot dictator declares himself King Donald.

Ian Bassin and Justin Florence, former associate White House counsels and co-founders of the nonpartisan nonprofit Protect Democracy, write Trump’s Acts Show the Urgent Need to Curb the Imperial Presidency:

In the post-Watergate era, most Americans have taken for granted that a president would not fire an F.B.I. director investigating him, or replace an attorney general for insufficient loyalty to the president’s personal interests. Dangling a pardon before potential witnesses to influence their testimony? Unheard of.

Whatever one’s feelings about the end of the Mueller investigation, the Barr letter makes one thing clear: The guardrails that were established after Watergate against these types of abuses have been smashed. We still need to see the full Mueller report, but unless corrective steps are taken, Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr will have changed, perhaps profoundly, the shape of presidential power, and in troubling ways.

It’s therefore up to Congress and the 2020 presidential candidates to step in and harden the policies that for 40 years prevented improper political interference in law enforcement.They can do this by enacting comprehensive legislation to codify rules and practices that were previously voluntary.

Those who subscribe to the Barr memo view of expansive executive power might claim that such legislation would violate the Constitution. On the contrary, such legislation would help enforce it.

See, William Barr’s Troubling View of Presidential Power.

First, Congress should restrict when and how the White House intervenes in law enforcement actions, giving teeth to the norms of the post-Watergate era. One model for such legislation is a reform born out of President Richard Nixon’s abuse of the I.R.S. to target enemies. Congress made it unlawful for certain officials, including the president, to “request, directly or indirectly,” any I.R.S. officer or employee to, in effect, weaponize a taxpayer audit. Congress could apply that approach by prohibiting a president from intervening in individual law enforcement proceedings — or at a minimum require notification when a president or members of the White House staff do so. Such a rule would have imposed an additional bar, for example, on the president trying to get the Department of Justice to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger in retaliation for CNN’s coverage, or from trying to investigate or prosecute political opponents.

Second, Congress should ensure that if the president issues or even dangles pardons in an attempt to block an investigation into his own interests, legislators will receive documents regarding the underlying investigation (once it’s concluded). This will both ensure accountability and deter bad faith behavior. Representative Adam Schiff’s Pardon Abuse Prevention Act provides a good start; it could be supplemented to apply to so-called dangled pardons and to force disclosure of discussions with pardon seekers in investigations implicating the president.

Third, Congress can make it harder for the government to mislead the public. A little-known law called the Information Quality Act creates a requirement that federal agencies ensure the quality, objectivity, utility and integrity of information they provide to the American people. Strengthening the act so that it applies to the president would help expose disinformation and make it more difficult for presidents to take executive actions based on false “determinations” and “findings.”

Finally, Congress should prohibit the president from using federal law enforcement powers to interfere in an electoral campaign. Procedures designed to check some such activity exist in the United States Attorneys Manual, but that merely compiles prudential guidelines. Congress should harden these rules and expand them to cover other law enforcement agencies (such as the Department of Homeland Security). It could require a Civil Service process to approve sensitive actions around campaign season.

An even stronger measure could require early-stage confidential judicial approval before a law-enforcement action that might impact the outcome of an election could be taken. Such reforms would make it harder for a president to abuse power — such as by timing investigations or announcements to affect a political campaign, using the security clearance process to silence critics, sending immigration authorities to polling places or intervening in Secret Service activities to protect candidates and events.

Campaign season shouldn’t bring government to a halt, and law enforcement shouldn’t ignore actual wrongdoing in an electoral context. But given the abuses we’ve seen in the past two years and others that might easily take place in the future, we ignore additional protections at our peril.

Some of these ideas already have bipartisan support. Clear statements by Congress implementing constitutional principles would also provide standards by which courts and the American people could judge the president’s conduct.

The Constitution commands that the president “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” At its core, this commands the president to act in good faith. The founders thought this directive was so important they put it in the Constitution not once but twice: in the “take care” clause and the president’s oath.

As the founders understood, the only reason We the People would delegate sovereignty to elected officials is if we were assured they would exercise that power in the public interest. If our legal system were to approve of the president exercising that power instead to protect his own interests, as the Barr letter does, we may find that our democratic experiment won’t extend much longer.

Defend our constitutional democracy, or lose it. It is a time for choosing (to borrow a phrase from Sen. Barry Goldwater).


  1. Don’t be a fool, people! Invest now!

    Trump runs businesses into the dirt, then declares Chapter 11, we know this from the hundreds of articles and many books that were written about him BEFORE he became POTUS.

    We knew he was bad at business, and we’ve been counting on that, and now we’re about to cash in on that bet, because he’s about to do the same thing to America!

    So now is the time to run up those credit cards and HELOC’s, get a bunch of new stuff, remodel the house, maybe a new car, oh, wait, a boat! Hell, a yacht! And sit back and wait for the Great American Bankruptcy!

    Then we can all file Chapter 11 and keep all of our boats for pennies on the dollar!

    Why shouldn’t we common folk benefit from some good old American vulture capitalism? Why is it only meant for the Trump/Romney’s of the world?

    So I’m charging like a banshee starting now, and Russia, if you’re listening, please put 12 cases of your best vodka and caviar on my MasterCard!

    I’ll also take 100 cases of the best Anejo Mexico has to offer. A few cases for myself, the rest to unload at drastically marked up prices after Trump’s border shutdown makes it a rare commodity.

    Profit from the inevitable border-shutdown-apocalypse, people, and God Bless America!

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