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'Trump Declaring Emergency is Partly a Political Play to His Base' - Scholar

© Wikipedia / Wikimedia Commonson the US-Mexico border. To the left San Diego, California, US. To the right Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico.
on the US-Mexico border. To the left San Diego, California, US. To the right Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. - Sputnik International
US President Donald Trump has signed a bill designed to avert another government shutdown, but he hs also declared a national emergency to get the funding he wants to build the border wall with Mexico.

Radio Sputnik has discussed the issue with Cal Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Sputnik: What are the political and legal steps that can be taken by his political opponents, some of which are in his own party, to counter this action?

Cal Jillson: Right, exactly. There is a law from 1976, the National Emergencies Act, that gives the president certain special authorities when emergencies are declared and as you say, [there are] a hundred of laws that describe those parameters.

US President Donald Trump - Sputnik International
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Those laws have normally been used for international emergencies to seize the property of drug-traffickers or something like that or to respond to national disasters. Never before has a president used the National Emergencies Act to gain a policy goal that he is being blocked from gaining through the Congress.

So, there are two things that could happen. One of them is that both Houses of the US Congress, the House and the Senate, could pass a resolution, a simple majority vote, declaring that they do not support the president's declaration of emergency and he would be blocked from using it. Republicans would probably not embarrass the president that way; so that is possible, but not likely.

Much more likely is there will be a series of lawsuits in the courts and those lawsuits will be brought by the Democratic Party, maybe Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leaders; but also by private groups like Public Citizen, which is a Good Government group in the US.

So, multiple lawsuits will bog down the president's ability to actually act and expand his border wall and those suits could go on through the remainder of his term in office

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Sputnik: I am wondering how important that precedent is because US law is based on precedent. There are times in Congress when the various actors can't agree and there are debates and everybody is always afraid of using what is called the "nuclear option', right? Because that will create a precedent and change the way things are run in the future. Is this the same thing? If this is used one time like this, could it then start to be used by other presidents in the future for political gains?

Cal Jillson: Yes, yes, it certainly could and that is what Democrats are pointing out to some nervous Republicans, like Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and others, who over the last several weeks declared their discomfort; even their opposition to the president declaring emergency powers in order to get his wall built.

In this April 29, 2018 file photo, a member of the Central American migrant caravan, holding a child, looks through the border wall toward a group of people gathered on the U.S. side, as he stands on the beach where the border wall ends in the ocean, in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, April 29, 2018 - Sputnik International
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And so those Republicans are in a difficult situation now, because the Republican president will declare a national emergency. But they realise that in 2020, a new president may well be elected that could be a Democrat. That Democrat could declare a national emergency around gun violence or around global warming, both of which the Republicans would hate to see happen.

But once you open the door to a president using national emergency for policy disputes, Republicans are coming to realise they could be on the other end of that power and they could rue the day that they opened this door.

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Sputnik: Yes, that could be a very interesting Pandora's Box that he is opening. I don't know if people have told him about what could happen in the future and if he is really interested in that anyway. Are there any other ways that Trump could viably attain these funds, other than declaring a national emergency?

Cal Jillson: Well, probably not, because he has ways to gather relatively small amounts of money. Hundreds of millions, small billions, it's a lot of money to us but not so much in terms of the size of the US government. So he does have some flexibility.

But people need to remember that for the first two years of the Trump administration, the Republicans had majority control of both Houses of Congress and did not give the president the wall money he wanted, because most people see the wall as an inefficient way to deal with border control issues. [Much] more high tech ways should do it better than a border wall.

So his Republican majorities didn't give him the wall money. The Democrats are now in control of one half of the US Congress and they again declined to give him the money and developed a compromise with the Republican majority in the Senate.

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The president is accepting that compromise, but he still wants to signal [to] his base voters, whom he will need in the 2020 re-election campaign, that he is very serious about this border wall and border security and they should not punish him for his inability to get the money from the Congress.

So this is partly a political play to his base. I am sure he does recognise at some level that this is both political and legal and he is likely to lose the legal fight over time, but he doesn't tend to think three and four steps ahead; he tends to think of today's news cycle.

Views and opinions, expressed in the article are those of Cal Jillson and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik

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