President Trump appears poised to declare the situation at the border a national emergency. His latest attempt to negotiate with Democrats was a comic disaster, with the president passing out candy bars before saying “bye bye” and storming out of the room when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she wouldn’t agree to allocate $5.7 billion toward construction of a border wall if he agreed to re-open the government.
The next day, Trump took a propaganda trip to McAllen, Texas, where he teased his next move while speaking with Sean Hannity. “Now if we don’t make a deal with Congress most likely I will do that,” the president said of declaring a national emergency, which would in theory allow him to direct the military to build the wall. “I would actually say I would, I can’t imagine any reason why not because I’m allowed to do it. The law is 100 percent on my side.”
Though Trump has the ability to declare a national emergency, many believe such a transparent political ploy that has little to do with national security would be unlikely to hold up in court. This hasn’t stopped the White House from devising a way to get the wall built if and when Trump presses the national emergency button. As was reported Thursday, the plan includes using Army Corps of Engineers disaster funding earmarked for the hurricane relief in Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas, and wildfire relief in California. Because the funding has yet to be officially applied to these projects, the president has the authority to redirect it toward the construction of a border wall. Trump was reportedly briefed on the plan as he flew from Washington, D.C., to Texas on Thursday.
Confirmed: the WH has directed the Army Corps to examine supplemental funding — including disaster relief for Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas, California, etc. — to see what money could go to a border wall in case of a national emergency declaration.
— Emily Cochrane (@ESCochrane) January 10, 2019
According to the New York Times, the Trump administration is even looking into whether it may be able to divert relief funding without the president declaring a national emergency. Either way, Democrats are expected to do all they can to block such an action, including drafting legislation.
On Wednesday, Trump threatened to order FEMA to cease providing relief to California, which last year was ravaged by the Camp and Woolsey wildfires. The president has claimed that ineffective forest management practices are causing the fires, and thus the federal government should not be held responsible. Not only is there little evidence to support this, the federal government controls the majority of California’s forested land. Trump has made similar complaints regarding Puerto Rico, claiming in September that the Hurricane Maria death toll released by the Puerto Rican government was part of a Democratic conspiracy to make him look bad.
It goes without saying that the president won’t have any problem siphoning a few billion in disaster relief money to fund the world’s most expensive vanity project.