At least he did eventually. Donald Trump made a Rose Garden appearance to declare a state of emergency on the southern border as expected. However, he started off by talking about trade with China and the UK, the upcoming Hanoi summit with North Korea, and offered praise for both China and Russia for “partially” enforcing sanctions on Pyongyang.
For an emergency, Trump took his sweet time getting to the southern border:
— CNN (@CNN) February 15, 2019
“It’s a big lie, a big con game,” Trump said of people who say walls don’t work. “Chuck knows it. Nancy knows it.” Border agents “open the doors” on cars and see human trafficking at checkpoints, so they won’t go through the legal points of entry. Where walls are already in place, people don’t attempt entry, Trump argued — they go to where no wall exists. “We’re talking about an invasion,” Trump said, “of drugs, of human trafficking.” He pointed out two women who held up a pictures of their murdered family members, as he declared the national emergency to get funding to build more of the wall.
The talk then drifted back to China, oddly, as he discussed drug trafficking. Trump claims that Xi Jinping knows how to deal with drug traffickers … by executing them. “We could get rid of the drug problem” in the US if we were more like China, Trump argued.
Trump says he’s expecting to get sued, but c’est la vie:
The president describes the process of declaring a national emergency — and getting sued pic.twitter.com/knUzNxznTI
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) February 15, 2019
So the shoe has dropped, as seemed inevitable from the first day of the shutdown. What about Congress? The White House threatened that Trump would “absolutely veto” any attempt to cancel out his declaration of emergency. They’re also mindful of standing in any lawsuit brought and will select construction sites with that in mind:
The officials, who included senior aide Stephen Miller and OMB deputy director Russ Vought — who said the president would veto any Hill efforts to block the plan — told surrogates the decision to focus the new wall construction in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas was part of an effort to deny California standing to sue. Areas along the southern border with “vehicle barrier” will also see immediate construction, the officials said.
Officials argued that it’s faster to build on land already owned by the government, but that eminent domain will be used aggressively.
Trump can veto a joint resolution to cancel the emergency resolution. However, as Allahpundit noted a couple of weeks ago, its passage in the first place could complicate Trump’s claim that an emergency exists at all. If the courts take up the position that they have a role in assessing whether a real emergency exists, Congress’ rejection of the idea would strengthen a judge’s impulse to overrule Trump and enjoin any actions resulting from it. In fact, this will get shopped to so many courts that it’s almost a sure bet that at least one judge will assume that prerogative.
The big question will be whether the appellate courts endorse that jurisdiction. The White House will argue that the judiciary has no role in evaluating the conditions of an emergency, which is a political question, but only to uphold the president’s authority to decide that on his own. That argument — similar to the argument on the so-called “travel ban” executive orders — might fly in some circuits, but there’s one in which it surely won’t. That may be another reason that the Trump administration wants to avoid California and the Ninth Circuit.