Though most eyes remain primarily focused on the Mueller investigation, the more immediate and more decisive blow to Trump’s presidency may be his recent promise to declare a state of national emergency in order to have a border wall built.
The Mueller investigation does appear to be making significant progress, claiming name after name as it spirals ever closer to Trump’s alleged collusion with the Russians. While methodical and presumably meticulous, the FBI investigation is around two and a half years old now, and Mueller’s been running it for more than a year and a half.
THE INVESTIGATION ROLLS ON
It’s undeniably best that the investigation be thorough — that all “i”s are dotted and “t”s are crossed — so that there are no loopholes or technicalities to detract from the final determination. However, the presidential term is ticking by, and there seems to be no indication that the investigation will wrap up any time in the immediate future.
What’s more, there’s yet to be publicly divulged any damning information that explicitly exhibits undeniable collusion directly between Trump and Russia. It’s entirely possible that the FBI already possesses ironclad evidence and that they’re just playing their cards close to the vest until they are one hundred percent sure they have all of their ducks in a row. In the minds of Trump supporters, though, the time spent thus far only supports their theory of a baseless witch-hunt.
It’s not difficult to imagine that when the investigation finally does come to an end, Trump supporters will be plenty prepared to dismiss the findings as biased and corrupt. Even if the report results in criminal charges, Trump is unlikely to lose support from his remaining base. Instead, in their eyes, he’ll probably be figuratively martyred.
THE PROBLEM WITH ULTIMATUMS
The border wall issue, on the other hand, must soon come to a head in one manner or another, and neither of them appear survivable for Trump. The President recently announced that if he was not presented with a bill that included border wall funding within three weeks of reopening the government after the recent shutdown, he would declare a national emergency or force another shutdown.
The Democratic Party opposition to Trump’s border wall has little incentive to comply with this demand, which suggests that Trump will be faced with making good on his claim. Trump already caved on the first shutdown when the opposition refused to buckle after 35 days, so it’s the national emergency option that has grabbed the attention of those on both sides.
CALLING THE BLUFF
Most in the Trump opposition camp point out that a national emergency declaration would almost certainly fall under scrutiny in federal court. In Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company v. Sawyer, the Supreme Court denied Harry S. Truman the ability to take over steel mills for defense/government purposes during the Korean War. Considering that and the current atmosphere around, as well as the historic relationship between, the Supreme Court and President Trump on immigration issues, it seems highly unlikely that the Court would uphold as valid a national emergency declaration related to the border wall.
Not only may Trump not get his wall even if he does declare a national emergency, he potentially runs the risk of facing charges if he pushes enough to run too far afoul of Congress. Depending on how it shakes out in the end, an attempt to misuse emergency powers could be viewed as unconstitutional and could potentially provide the best justification to date for pursuing impeachment.
The Democratic opposition appears to come out ahead either way. If Trump doesn’t accept a denial of his ability to use a national emergency declaration to build his wall, he may actually put his Presidency in even greater jeopardy.
How does this measure up to or exceed a Mueller determination that implicates Trump? As mentioned above, it will undoubtedly be determined more rapidly. Additionally, though, failure to achieve some measure of concrete success on the border wall issue at this juncture will devastate a huge portion of the remaining Trump support base.
THEY WERE PROMISED A WALL
Arguably the primary element of Trump’s 2016 Presidential race MAGA campaign was the promise of drastic restrictions to immigration, namely the construction of a physical southern border wall. Very early in his presidency, Trump was handed a humbling immigration defeat when he attempted to introduce severe visa restrictions, denials, and revocations.
That failure was followed by the DACA debacle that had to be discontinued when the American public refused to accept the separation of children from their immigrant parents. In the meantime, it gradually became clear even to Trump supporters that the funding for the wall would have to come from within, despite his campaign claims.
Seeing virtually no significant signs of the drastic immigration restrictions they were promised during the campaign, Trump supports became impatient with the President for heading into the second half of his term without having made any headway on the southern border wall that served as the flagship for his election platform.
RUNNING OUT OF ROAD
Realizing that many of his faithful were beginning to lose faith, the President staged a semi-final push to bulldoze Congress into funding his wall. When that failed, he levied an ultimatum in desperation, but he made one fatal flaw: he put a deadline on it.
Had Trump not committed to a date and suggested the possibility of a national emergency declaration, he may have been able to stall the judgment of his supporters a little longer. In less than three weeks, though, when Trump neither gets his border wall funding nor is able to declare and maintain a state of national emergency, he may essentially nullify his ability to effectively serve as President in a way that the FBI investigation is not yet quite prepared to.