On Wednesday President Donald Trump told reporters he views a national emergency as a way to bypass an “unreasonable” Congress that refuses to acquiesce to his demands.
This misinterpretation of the proper use of a national emergency coincides with the President’s ideas about using a government shutdown to force Congress to give in to his demands as well. Trump famously declared he would be proud to shut down the government if he did not get what he wanted from Congress.
Although he later decided to blame Democrats for his choice.
A state of national emergency is when a government is empowered to perform actions not normally permitted. Free governments declare a national emergency during a disaster, civil unrest or armed conflict.
But authoritarian governments also use a national emergency to bypass the rights and protections of their citizens and override checks and balances. In the United States, worried that a corrupt President could exploit a national emergency, in 1976 Congress passed the National Emergencies Act.
The law passed to stop open-ended states of national emergency. It also formalized Congress’ ability to provide certain checks and balances on the emergency powers of the President.
It imposes certain procedural requirements on the President when declaring a national emergency.
The law remained unneeded, until perhaps now.
“I have the absolute right to do national emergency if I want.”
In response, a reporter asked, “What’s your threshold for when you might make that decision?”
The President replied:
“My threshold will be if I can’t make a deal with people that are unreasonable.”
In other words: there really is no national emergency at all.
Watch the President’s remarks below:
TRUMP: I have the absolute right to do national emergency if I want.
REPORTER: What’s your threshold for when you might make that decision?
TRUMP: My threshold will be if I can’t make a deal with people that are unreasonable.pic.twitter.com/8LwEQIIwji
— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) January 9, 2019
If there were an actual national emergency, there would be no qualifier or negotiation, a fact which did not go unnoticed. Especially after the second time Trump spoke of a national emergency later the same day.
Instead of mentioning actual real world emergencies, events or situations, Trump cited only political machinations in both cases.
After a lunch with Republican congressional leaders, the President again spoke off the cuff with the press. That rarely goes will for Trump.
“If Chuck [Schumer] & Nancy [Pelosi]… if they don’t agree to the fact that our country really has problems w/crime, with drugs, with a lot of other things…it’s a bad issue for the Democrats.”
Watch his comments here.
Trump says he “may do” national emergency, then immediately undercuts his case for declaring one: “If Chuck & Nancy… if they don’t agree to the fact that our country really has problems w/crime, with drugs, with a lot of other things…it’s a bad issue for the Democrats.” pic.twitter.com/ohNbGAwGyj
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 9, 2019
People were quick to pick up on and call out the President’s potential abuse of power.
“Do” a national emergency. Sure.
— Funmergency (@OneMoreDrank) January 9, 2019
Imagining how he would get away with murder it looks like
— Narcissist Problems (@Narc_Problems) January 9, 2019
— Basqueing Shark (@Basquerading) January 9, 2019
Is that an official threshold for declaring a national emergency – that @POTUS isn’t getting his way?
— Janet (@sfjw) January 9, 2019
You get a national emergency, and you get a national emergency! pic.twitter.com/gHJYsm7iD1
— ᖶl∩ƨµɐplbөʇ (@FlushablPet) January 9, 2019
— Sam (@leumaSAa) January 9, 2019
I don’t think that’s how emergencies work.
— Roald Oines (@Rfoines) January 9, 2019
Oh… so emergencies aren’t actually emergencies anymore, they’re shows of force against people who disagree with you. Got it.
— Amber Q. Perry (@6MonstersMake8) January 9, 2019
I’ll take “Things Authoritarians Say” for $1000, Alex.
— Indivisible Podcast (@indivisiblepod) January 9, 2019
— Gabriel Martinez (@gabrielmartinez) January 9, 2019
And people urged Democrats not to give in to the threats from the Oval Office.
No compromise from the Democrats. Don’t negotiate with a hostage taker.
If this is the hill he’s chosen to die on then so be it. Let him.
— Giftedbutlazy (@Giftedbutlazy1) January 9, 2019
From now on every Dem political ad countering Republican political ads just needs to be this on loop with “you supported this guy?” in capital letters.
— Dee-Nice (@deniseisabroad) January 9, 2019
The President did not specify a deadline for Congress giving in to his demands before he declared a national emergency.