Donald Trump addresses a press conference in the Rose Garden, January 4, 2019.
By SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images.
Donald Trump is said to be considering a plan to divert resources set aside to address actual emergencies to the fake emergency he says is occurring at the southern border of the United States—a “crisis,” he claims, that can only be solved by his long-promised border wall. According to reports, the president has been briefed on a plan to circumvent Democrats, who have rejected his demands for $5.7 billion in wall funding, and build the barrier by declaring a national emergency, siphoning money intended for relief efforts in wildfire-ravaged California and hurricane-damaged Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. The emergency declaration has apparently become an attractive option to Trump, who is looking to save face as the shutdown he manufactured last month approaches historic length. “I’ll probably will do it,” Trump told reporters Thursday when asked if he’d declare a national emergency to build his wall. “Maybe definitely.”
The plan would reportedly commandeer $13.9 billion from the Army Corps of Engineers budget. About $2.5 billion would be siphoned from Puerto Rico, which is still in the midst of reconstruction efforts following the disastrous Hurricane Maria. And $2.4 billion would be funneled from California, which just endured the most destructive wildfire in the state’s history—the money was designated for, among other things, wildfire management and flood protection. In addition to its cruelty, the plan may carry political ramifications, as it’s sure to irritate voters in three of the most electorally powerful states, including an increasingly purple Texas and perennial swing state Florida, ahead of the 2020 election.
But it’s a move that could allow the president to reopen the government without conceding to the Democrats, who have frustrated him at every turn in the standoff. His usual tactics—no-holds-barred attacks, lying through his teeth—haven’t worked for him this time around, and political stunts, including a highly unnecessary prime-time address, and a trip to the border that even the president deemed “a waste of time,” have failed to change the state of play. Meanwhile, 800,000 federal employees are caught in the middle, and the deleterious impacts of the shutdown are beginning to impact taxpayers. While Republicans not named Lindsey Graham largely oppose a national emergency declaration, a move experts say is legally questionable at best, Trump may see it as a way out of a crisis of his own making—a bet, essentially, that the good optics of reopening the government would outweigh the bad optics of doing so at the expense of American citizens in need of actual relief. At the very least, it would stop the onslaught of damning stories on the impact of the shutdown.
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