On the Edge of a National Emergency?
During his visit to Texas, the president starred in a Dante-esque scene to talk about the dangers on the border because of "illegal immigration." The montage seems to be the preamble to a National Emergency declaration that will give Trump authority to divert funds from the Army's construction agency.
With a histrionic president, tantrums and bluster are routine parts of the day.
After storming out of a meeting on Wednesday after Democratic leaders refused once again to finance his border wall, President Trump reluctantly agreed to travel to Texas to make an appearance in person at the border.
"It's not going to change a damn thing, but I’m still doing it," Trump said of the border visit, according to what people in the room told the New York Times. The president noted that the trip was "merely a photo opportunity”. However, he added that his communication assistants "say it's worth it.”
His administration's communication strategy points to the exacerbation of the so-called "crisis on the border" to counteract Democratic reluctance to grant funds for his border wall, and to evaluate the possibility of ultimately declaring a National Emergency.
For this, Trump traveled to Texas accompanied by the Director of the Army Corps of Engineers.
The president doesn’t have enough Republican votes to simply get what he wants. Meanwhile, Democratic leaders have backed bipartisan proposals that could increase security at the border without the need to build a wall, something Trump has flatly denied.
A physical wall is not as powerful in this regard so much as what it represents politically.
At his televised meeting with border agents in the town of McAllen, the president laughed, suggesting that the Democrats' refusal to back a border wall is about the 2020 presidential election and said that "they will continue talking about this and other things because they won’t win."
Meanwhile, the government remains closed, hundreds of thousands of federal employees are working without pay, and federal agencies have begun to suffer the effects.
His close advisors, who believe that if he gives up he will lose the necessary support to be re-elected, and thus give advantage to the Democratic base, have backed the president’s decision.
In every way, the most palatable option for Trump is to divert funds from the army's construction agency to build his longed-for wall. This might only be possible if he declares a National Emergency.
According to USA Today, the Pentagon is already preparing options to build "barriers" along the southern border in case the president finally goes this route.
"The Department of Defense is reviewing the available authorities and funding mechanisms to identify options to enable border barrier construction," said Bill Speaks, Navy captain, and Pentagon spokesman. "As there has not been such a declaration made, it would be inappropriate to comment further on those efforts."