Congress must act to reverse Trump’s fake “National Emergency” 

An avalanche on a mountain pass in Wyoming last weekend buried a man under nearly 5 feet of snow. Fellow skiers were able to locate and pull him out ― he was blue and unresponsive after being stuck under the snow for 6-8 minutes, according to local news reports. Search and Rescue crews responded immediately. They helped everyone get home alive.

It’s safe to say being swept away and buried by an avalanche constitutes and emergency. Generally a person has just minutes before they begin to suffocate and risk brain damage and/or death. The weight of the snow is crushing. There is no time to pontificate about the merits of an avalanche, who or what triggered it or how quickly to respond. I’m willing to bet no one in an avalanche search party has ever said, “I could perform this rescue over a period of time … but I’d rather do it much faster.”

But that’s what President Trump said Friday during a press conference about his National Emergency declaration. “I didn’t need to do this,” he told reporters. In what universe is that an emergency? The truth is, President Trump didn’t get the funding he wanted for his border wall via the spending bill, so he declared a national emergency in order to free up funds. In other words, he threw an executive temper tantrum.

Congress passed the National Emergencies Act in 1976. Under this law, a president can declare a national emergency if he deems an issue “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security.” That’s it. It is intentionally vague, but that vagueness opens the door to opportunities for exploitation and overreach.

“The legal powers available to the president during a national emergency are ripe for abuse,” Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice said in a 2018 video.

“In practice, we’ve been relying on presidents to exercise self-restraint, and hoping the courts will step in if they don’t,” she said. “That’s a gamble we can no longer take.”

If Donald Trump is known for anything, it’s is lack of self-restraint.

Numerous lawsuits have been filed challenging the constitutionality of Trump’s latest action, and we will all have to wait and see how the courts interpret these challenges. What’s more troubling, however, is the slippery slope of this faux-emergency declaration.

There are multiple ways Trump could legally use this to disenfranchise Americans and amp up his dictator game. For instance, as Goitein points out, he could shut down radio stations or even take over internet communication. This is a guy who already uses a social media platform to air his grievances and dirty laundry, has called for state-run media in the U.S., and who takes it upon himself to vilify any critical media as fake news. Trump could also use the “emergency” to deploy the U.S. Military inside the U.S. ― and use it as a force against American citizens.

Congress has the power to stop this.

With a super-majority vote, our representatives can prevent Trump’s “emergency” from snowballing into something out of a George Orwell novel. But let’s face it, not all of our elected officials in Washington have the guts to stand up to this president.

Brand New Congress’ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Texas representative Joaquin Castro have promised to introduce a joint resolution that would kick start the process of a reversal of the so-called National Emergency. It will take more than the two of them to undo this.

Acting to defy a sitting president is exactly what Trump himself called on Congress to do (in a tweet, of course) in 2014.

 

 

But Trump doesn’t take advice, not even his own. He’s is concerned only with boosting his ego by fear mongering and flat out lying. The facts are that illegal border crossing have declined in recent years. We needn’t fear immigrants entering the country via our border with Mexico, what we need to fear is a United States in which Donald Trump has incredible control over the free flow of information and the ability to use our military forces against us. If Congress doesn’t act, we are all facing an avalanche of dangerous abuse of power, and that is the real emergency.

We need a Congress willing to shut down this tyrant. Call the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and tell your representative to support the Ocasio-Cortez/Castro resolution.

 

Lisa Newcomb is a political communications director and writer. She tweets here: @Newcomb_Lisa