Donald Trump walks back 'national emergency' threat as US govt shutdown becomes longest ever in country's history

New York: US president Donald Trump has no escape route from America’s government shutdown of his own making than to declare a national emergency so he can funnel funds from his own government departments to build his promised border wall along the 1,954 mile long US Mexico border. For the moment though, he's walking back his on-again, off-again threats to declare an emergency, saying "the easy solution is for me to call a national emergency ... but I'm not going to do it so fast." If Trump waits for the Opposition to cave, it's not only because he is afraid he'll be sued for declaring an emergency, it also means the wall is proving to be what it always was - a totem for racial discontent, not a real thing that needs to be built but a construct that can drive a cultural schism only as long as it's not a real edifice.

The partial shutdown will set a record early Saturday, stretching beyond the 21-day closure that ended 6 January, 1996, during Bill Clinton's administration.

 Donald Trump walks back national emergency threat as US govt shutdown becomes longest ever in countrys history

Donald Trump before leaving for Texas on 10 January 2019. AP

If Trump declares an emergency, Trump will be making it official that every time he can’t round up all his toys and walk away is an emergency. The National Emergencies Act of 1976 was passed in response to Watergate and presumes the White House acts in good faith. The way the Act is written, Trump has broad leeway to declare an emergency whether one exists or not.

At last count, 31 “emergencies” are in effect, past presidents have invoked emergencies more than 40 times and Trump himself has declared three so far including one about sanctions on Russia for interference in the 2016 election. What’s different about this one, if it happens, is this: Trump will be doing this only to run circles around the Congress and spend funds without Congressional approval to serve his political agenda.

“If you’re up against a concrete wall, go through it, go around it, get to the other side somehow. I have so many people I’ve seen over the years, who, if they had fought just a little harder, would have accomplished their goals. So, don’t give up!”, Trump says in a 2004 video that’s come back to the headlines this week.
Trump is demanding billions for his wall that Democrats won't give him. In the meantime, 800,000 federal workers are missing paychecks Friday. They have not been paid since 22 December.

Trump’s executive action could come any moment now with all negotiations at a standstill and both sides dug in. In his public comments, he has left all options open - a typical Trump shtick. He has said “I can absolutely declare an emergency if I want to”, he has said, “I can compromise”, he has put the odds of his taking this action at “maybe definitely”. If Trump follows through, he will be re-ordering relations between the branches of government and will set off an immediate scramble of legal action by House Democrats. Not just that, if he plans to use the same emergency powers to seize private land in places where his wall needs to be built through locals' residences and farms, owners of those lands can go to court too. Each piece of the legal battle will take months or maybe years to solve, the wall isn't going to get built magically before Trump's term runs out, so what does Trump want out of this Godzilla size stunt?

During comments at another freewheeling press gaggle, Trump gave us yet another glimpse of what's really driving the wall emergency. Responding to reporters' questions about whether he empathizes with workers struggling without pay cheques, he said we should instead feel sorry about all those people who have been killed by immigrants, for wives who have lost husbands and husbands who have lost wives and for children who have lost parents. Trump is right, this wall - his wall - has never been about concrete or steel or even about illegal immigration, it's been about all the people who he doesn't want in America, people who don't look like him.

"Good behaviour is not a rule written down for the US president, right? It's just expected and he isn't doing what's expected. That's why we have democratic process, that's why we have elections. I agree with (James) Comey, Trump needs to be ousted in a landslide", says Ian Reid, a UK born US citizen living in New York.

Updated Date: Jan 14, 2019 11:46:41 IST