Donald Trump has three weeks to save his presidency. Maybe he will.
The President announced on Friday he had agreed to a short-term spending bill that will re-open the government for three weeks, until February 15. The bill didn’t include any money for the wall.
In his speech, Trump stressed why America needs a wall, citing an assortment of gruesome crimes committed by migrant gangs and human traffickers. He concluded his speech with the hope that Democrats will come to an agreement with him on a more lasting spending bill that gives money for the wall.
Of course, he should have declared the national emergency today…yet here we are.
What are we to make of this new development? Many patriots were appalled by this move and saw it as the end of Trump’s presidency. That’s premature. It certainly wasn’t ideal for Trump to pass the buck, but he still has the opportunity, and possibly the intention, to do the right thing. As of tonight, he’s certainly encouraging that idea:
I wish people would read or listen to my words on the Border Wall. This was in no way a concession. It was taking care of millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 26, 2019
But Trump is on the hook to arrange a settlement that would serve his base. Every Main Stream Media outlet covered Friday’s announcement as a submission to the Democrats. [Trump caves on shutdown, endorses reopening government for 3 weeks, by Lin Zhou, Vox, January 25, 2019] He cannot wait three weeks and then cave again. Trump must secure funding for the wall by any means necessary. His presidency depends on it, and he will likely be doomed in 2020 if he fails to do so.
The only real option for Trump is to sign a bill, presumably including the proposed nominal amount for border security, and then take executive action, perhaps a national emergency (or use of Public Law 85-804 ) which could get as much as $7 billion for a wall. [White House preparing draft national emergency order, has identified $7 billion for wall, by Priscilla Alvarez and Tammy Kupperman, CNN, January 24, 2019]
The optimistic view: the White House needs more time to draft a legally sound, impeccable declaration that can survive a brutal court battle, as well as more support for congressional Republicans to take the next logical move.
Trump has seen many of his actions thwarted by Leftist federal judges who apparently believe there is a constitutional right to immigrate to the United States and that any impediment of that is racist. The past failure of the travel ban shows why his administration needs to make sure this declaration can survive in court. The first attempt at the travel ban was a messy affair and rushed, which is why it was defeated in court and had to be revised multiple times. [Trump travel ban: What does this ruling mean?, BBC, June 26, 2018]. But it did ultimately prevail.
Getting the declaration draft right could be the case here, and that would be good news for immigration patriots.
The other hopeful possibility: that Trump intends to use the time to drum up support for the emergency declaration from Republicans. The president needs the majority of his party on his side for the battle that will unfold once that step is taken. There wasn’t much momentum this week from Republican lawmakers for the declaration. Trump needs to have people like Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Kevin McCarthy and other popular figures to publicly say they support the emergency declaration. (Graham has done so.) [Lindsey Graham wants Trump to declare national emergency if no border wall after three-week extension, by Katelyn Caralle, Washington Examiner, January 25, 2019] It would create the impression the party is behind this idea and they are ready to go to war with Democrats to see it gets implemented.
It would be nice if Trump could go at this alone, but he can’t. A significant number of Republicans joining Democrats in opposing the declaration would hinder its implementation, and immigration patriots need this plan to work.
Reports indicate that the Republicans in Congress are still divided on this issue. [Republicans divided on whether Trump should declare national emergency to get border wall funds, by Veronica Stracqualursi, Clare Foran and Manu Raju, CNN, January 11, 2019]. Trump needs to use the three weeks he has to whip up support for the only serious option he has for building the wall. If Trump can show to the country that he has the mandate from his party to declare a national emergency or take other executive action, it will give the needed impetus to do so.
But there are more pessimistic interpretations of why Trump punted on doing what is necessary this week. One possibility: he can’t yet summon the will to do such an action. Maybe he’s been listening to advisers who warn him that the declaration will be a threat to our constitutional order and be abused by Democratic presidents in the future. Maybe Trump thinks his party will abandon him if he does what’s necessary. Or, what’s most likely, he’s listened to Jared Kushner’s false promises that a deal can be reached with Democrats.
The worst possibility is not that Trump will wait three weeks and sign a bill that includes an insufficient amount of money for border security. The worst possibility is that he will sign an Amnesty to get a pittance of what he needs for the wall,
Remember, Amnesty is certainly what we would have gotten from John McCain, Mitt Romney or Jeb Bush. A George H.W. Bush-type Read-My-Lips type Amnesty cave-in would be a return to classic GOP Establishment politics.
As The Watcher previously reported, Jared Kushner is currently pushing for the president to offer green cards to DACA recipients in exchange for only $5.7 billion for the wall. No full funding, no cuts to chain migration, and no mandatory e-Verify. Just a portion of what Trump needs for the wall in a deal that gives nearly a million illegal aliens a pathway to citizenship—and ultimately many more immigrants through “family reunification.”.
That would be absolutely disastrous and would seal the fate of Trump’s presidency.
Fortunately, it appears patriots on Capitol Hill oppose the idea, with a few even saying it would be “insanity. [A "go big" idea to end the shutdown, by Jonathan Swan, Axios, January 23, 2019]
There’s also the high likelihood that Democrats will refuse to give Trump any substantial amount of money for the wall in exchange for a large-scale Amnesty anyway. They quickly rejected his earlier proposal for extended protections for DACA recipients and thousands of migrants living here on Temporary Protected Status. There isn’t any real indication they would change their minds if green cards for illegals was put forward.
Democrats have their eyes on 2020 and they know their activists would be livid with them if they made any grand bargain with Trump, especially one that gave him funds to (partially) build the wall. They may even worry that this sell-out may make Trump look moderate to the much-touted suburban voters in comparison to whoever Democrats nominate in 2020.
It is better for Democrats to conduct a race-baiting campaign with no such deal. They have been confident that they can get a straight spending bill with no serious concessions from Trump, and it looks like they are sticking with that position.
Whatever the case may be, Trump will almost certainly end up with no choice but to take executive action to get the wall. It’s up to him to find the legal justification, the support, and the will to do it.
He better had this time too. America is counting on him—and (whatever Jared Kushner is telling him) it’s his only chance at re-election.
Washington Watcher [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.