Stand Ready to Respond
The State of Play
We already know Donald Trump is a wannabe authoritarian who praises dictators and and routinely makes us less safe. In fact, we’re tracking the #TrumpThreatLevel here.
We also know that Trump’s bigoted authoritarian agenda was just dealt a massive blow by the swearing in of a new Congress, including a Democratic-led House of Representatives that was swept in by a Blue Wave that you helped build.
As a result, you may have noticed that the federal government is currently shut down because Trump hasn’t gotten his way on his unnecessary and xenophobic border wall (see our explainer here).
Predictably, because the American people have shut down his bad ideas, Trump the would-be tyrant is now threatening to go around Congress, go around the will of the people, subvert democracy, and abuse the powers of the presidency to move forward on the wall anyway.
What is Trump Threatening to Do?
We don’t yet know exactly what he’s contemplating. But he has repeatedly said that he wants to declare a national emergency, activate extra executive powers, and re-appropriate money to build the wall.
Make no mistake: this would be an illegal anti-democratic power grab rooted in racism. There is no emergency. Congress and the people have rejected Trump’s wall. If he were to go around constitutional separations of power and declare a fake emergency in a desperate attempt to get his way, it would be an abuse of power, full stop. It would be a misuse of authorities that are intended for actual emergencies. It would set dangerous precedent that could further erode our democratic norms and institutions. Worse, it would put the most vulnerable communities at greater risk.
For way too long, Congress has abdicated its responsibility to check presidential power grabs. This must stop. Over and over, presidents have cited “national security” rationale to erode democracy and threaten rights and liberties. Think of the internment of Japanese Americans, post-9/11 torture, and more. We think Trump’s fake emergency declaration would be illegal and immediately challenged in court. But Congress has a role here too, and must aggressively push back.
To repeat: There is no emergency. If Trump declares a fake one, it would be a blow to our democracy rooted in racism and we expect Congress to fight back.
There are Three Things Congress Can, and Should, Do If Trump Declares a Fake Emergency
The National Emergencies Act expressly provides a procedure for Congress to terminate a state of emergency. Congress has never used this procedure. But they should this time.
If Trump really follows through on his audition as an authoritarian, we would push Congress to do the following three things:
Reopen the government with ZERO funding for border wall. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are still not getting paid. And we’re seeing disruptions across federal agencies. We need to immediately end the shutdown. However, if Trump goes around Congress to try to get his wall, then Congress shouldn’t give him money on top of what he’s illegally trying to grab..
Use their power to reject the fake emergency. Congress has an obligation to check Executive Branch abuses, and there is a clear mechanism for doing it. They need to act to protect our democracy by terminating the phony emergency.
Launch investigations into this abuse of power. With their new oversight powers in the House, Democrats should immediately schedule hearings and investigations into Trump’s illegal power grab.
Like many of you, we’re on alert, and closely monitoring to see what happens. We are committed to providing you the best information that we have and a plan to respond. Watch this space.