Commentary: Trump Declares National Emergency

Commentary: Trump Declares National Emergency
February 20
16:26 2019

By Algenon Cash

Trump has been clashing with Congress on a wide range of issues since he was sworn in as our 45th President of the United States in January 2017 – but the divide between Congress and POTUS grew deeper when Trump demonstrated willingness to shut down the government over funding to build a wall at the southern border.  The 35-day government shutdown was the worse in history and resulted in nearly 700,000 public employees working with no guarantee of pay.

Veteran lawmakers eventually coalesced around a deal to reopen the federal government; a beleaguered President Trump was forced to accept their offer.  Undoubtedly, Trump supporters across the country were frustrated, and subsequently accused Trump of caving to the political interests of Pelosi and Schumer.

Nevertheless, Congress pressed forward and developed legislation to avoid another potential government shutdown, and included $1.375 billion in the spending bill for border security.  Trump however requested $5.7 billion and scuffed at the offer.

This past week President Trump declared a national emergency at the southern border to unlock additional government funding to complete his biggest campaign promise.  Trump based his decision of the assertion that drugs, criminals, terrorists, and illegal immigrants from Mexico are an overwhelming threat to national security that required executive action.

Trump seems to ignore some glaring facts – border arrests have fallen dramatically in recent years, to 400,000 in the last year, down from a peak of 1.6 million in 2000.

Trump plans to divert $3.6 billion from military construction projects, $2.5 billion from counter narcotics programs, and $600 million from the Treasury Department asset forfeiture fund.  Combined with the agreed upon funding in the latest spending package – Trump would have around $8 billion for border security.

During his 50-minute press conference in the Rose Garden, he stated, “we have an invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country,” painting a dark picture of what may be occurring at the southern border.

But then at times he appeared to undercut his own argument.  “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster, Trump declared.  “I just want to get it done faster, that’s all.”

Both political parties immediately reacted to the president’s decision and labeled it a power grab by the executive branch.  Undoubtedly such a unilateral action sets up a constitutional crisis.  Our founding fathers were clear when they outlined which branch of government has control of the country’s purse strings.

During his freewheeling press conference, Trump even acknowledged that his declaration of a national emergency would be held up by the judicial branch.  “Look, I expect to be sued,” he said.

The real head scratcher – if President Trump knows he is going to be sued, then he is directly violating the Constitution and laws he sworn to uphold.

Many pundits, including myself, routinely chastised President Barack Obama for using his executive authority for a wide range of initiatives that he was unable to get Congress to support – sparing millions of illegal immigrants from deportation, environmental regulations, and gun control.

But Trump’s decision to circumvent the normal appropriations process to fund a wall at the southern border places him in a club by himself.  The only presidents before him that did anything similar was President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush – however both used the 1970’s-era law to move military funds around for military purposes.  Neither took action specifically rejected by Congress.

Trump’s move could haunt Republicans for many years to come – undoubtedly a Democratic commander in chief may choose to follow the president’s same course of action if they cannot persuade Congress to act on a variety of major legislative priorities important to liberals; gun violence, climate change, or police violence.

President Trump is a self-proclaimed dealmaker, but he clearly is unable to handle the grinding process of courting lawmakers.

Citizen Trump felt much differently and was among those Republicans who criticized President Barack Obama for overly using his executive authority.  Mr. Trump once tweeted in 2014, “Repubs must not allow Pres Obama to subvert the Constitution of the US for his own benefit & because he is unable to negotiate w/ Congress.”

Algenon Cash is a nationally recognized speaker and the managing director of Wharton Gladden & Company, an investment banking firm. Reach him at

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