"Fox & Friends" on wall compromise: This is a big step

Here’s why I’m skeptical that Hannity will veto the plan, as Ed joked earlier: Plenty of Trumpers will rationalize polishing this turd of a deal, as you’ll see below. Hannity’s popularity depends on populist cred and so he didn’t want to start spinning the compromise as acceptable last night before POTUS himself had weighed in on it, in case the president surprises everyone by opposing it. So he made the safe play under the circumstances and pronounced the proposal trash; he’ll come around, if grudgingly, once the White House starts embracing it. Besides, Steve Doocy’s right that Trump has something up his sleeve.

Even one mile of wall is better than zero. Can’t argue with that. If the point of this standoff isn’t so much to seal the border as to own the libs, any concession by Democrats is a victory. Such is American politics in 2019.

What does Trump have up his sleeve, though? Well, until recently his options on wall funding were presented as either/or — either he’ll get Congress to give him some money or he’ll use executive authority, most likely in the form of an emergency declaration, to take Pentagon money to build it. What if, though, it’s no longer either/or but and?

Congress offers him five dollars or whatever the new amount is for wall funding, Trump takes it, then he issues an executive order of some kind to start moving Defense money around to cover the difference. That’s how he’ll sell it to skeptics like Hannity and all of them, except maybe Coulter, will sign on. Why we needed to spend two months on charade negotiations in Congress to arrive at that outcome when it was clear from the start that Trump would need to use executive authority to get $5.7 billion, I have no idea. I suppose it was a way for both parties to show their resolve to their respective bases via a dramatic confrontation, never mind the consequences to the country. Again: America 2019.

Will an executive decree work, even if it stops short of a full emergency declaration? Some of Trump’s aides are skeptical:

The emerging consensus among acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and top budget officials is to shift money from two Army Corps of Engineers’ flood control projects in Northern California, as well as from disaster relief funds intended for California and Puerto Rico. The plan will also tap unspent Department of Defense funds for military construction, like family housing or infrastructure for military bases, according to three sources familiar with the negotiations…

Some Trump officials, including those aligned with senior adviser Stephen Miller, have argued internally that the gambit might be even more vulnerable to court challenges than a national emergency declaration. And in a sign of the political fallout, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee has argued that tapping military construction money would hurt the armed forces’ potential readiness…

“It will create a firestorm, once you start taking money that congressmen think is in their districts,” said Jim Dyer, a former staff director for the House Appropriations Committee.

It remains strange to me that Democrats haven’t tried to get Trump to pledge that he won’t use executive authority. They could have demanded that as a precondition to the negotiations in Congress; granted, he might have lied and ended up invoking it anyway after the deal was signed but that would have been a brazen lie even by Trump standards. It also would have become something Dems could point to in the future when asked why they refuse to negotiate with the White House on other matters. “Can’t trust him to honor a deal,” they would have said. If nothing else, the ultimatum would have spared us these two months of kabuki since Trump almost certainly would have refused to make a “no executive authority” pledge. Pelosi and Schumer could have declared the negotiations over at that point and waited for the big court battle.

The question in court, per Politico, is likely to be whether wall construction falls within the scope of “authorized civil works” under existing law. If it does, the Army can redirect funds from the Army’s civil works program to those projects. This might explain why Trump is holding out for some kind of deal in Congress involving a wall or fencing or “steel-slat barriers” or whatever: It might strengthen his case that the wall has been “authorized.” But it deepens the mystery of why Democrats would engage in negotiations to begin with. This deal probably makes it more likely that POTUS will be able to exert executive authority lawfully, in which case why would they agree to it?

I think he’s now lined up for a reasonably good outcome to this fiasco no matter what. It would have been bad, if only short-term, if he had caved completely and given up on wall construction until 2021. Trumpers would have forgiven him but it would have undermined his “he fights!” shtick. As it is, he’s getting a little something from Congress which he can use to start building “fencing,” which can easily be sold to his fans as a win. As Andrew Egger notes today, he had them chanting “Finish the wall” in El Paso last night even though he hasn’t begun to build it. “All he needs to do,” writes Egger, “is to keep them convinced that construction is underway, they’re making good progress, and what he really needs from Congress is money to finish the wall. In other words, he just needs to run out the clock.” Even if he only builds five miles of fencing before the election, hey — he’s keeping his promise, isn’t he? Just give him time.

And if he loses in court, that’s okay too. Then he can blame the judges, which converts easily into a 2020 reelection pitch: “We’ll never have security unless I get to appoint the replacements for all of these open-borders nuts on the bench.” Just give him time. Four more years, say.

Here’s Dem negotiator Nita Lowey insisting that there’s no money for a wall in the deal, just money for … fencing. That was another completely predictable outcome of this charade, that both sides would end up on some sort of barrier that can be spun as a wall by the right and not a wall by the left. What a clown show.