Will he, won’t he?

Trump declaring a national emergency on the Mexican border: a first. Trump painting over inconvenient facts: not at all a first.

The Presidential Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency takes around $3.6 billion in funds earmarked for military construction—as well as $600 million in asset forfeiture funds, and around $2.5 billion drawn from Department of Defense funds aimed at drug interdiction—and adds it to the $1.375 billion Congress had included in the actual spending bill to build a wall along the US southern border wall, with almost all experts agreeing it won’t actually work.

During the speech announcing the national emergency, Trump not only admitted he didn’t need to do it, but he predicted legal challenges to the declaration itself. Last week, those challenges got underway, with one lawsuit in particular catching a lot of people’s attention.

California and 15 other states filed a lawsuit on February 18 challenging Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration.

“The president admitted that there’s not a basis for the declaration. He admitted there’s no crisis at the border. He’s now trying to rob funds that were allocated by Congress legally to the various states and people of our states,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC Monday afternoon before the suit was filed.

The current situation, though, could be Trump’s most challenging re-branding effort yet. The wall, after all, is the evocative underpinning of his candidacy, chant-ready chum, an unsubtle cross between a policy position and a race-laced call to arms. As a piece of pure imagery, his “great, great,” “big, beautiful wall” is his political lifeblood. It either will or won’t exist, and that could determine his political future.

And with the 2020 presidential campaign ramping up with a growing register of Democrats vying for the right to attempt to take down Trump, he’s staring at an unprecedented challenge. Even with his Twitter-torqued bully pulpit, Trump has never had less capacity to singlehandedly control a story-line. There simply are too many people with too much power of their own who stand ready and eager to hold him to account for any perceived failure. Polls and pundits—most painfully fellow Republicans—provide feedback openly complicating his self-serving narrative.

 

On February 20, the County of El Paso, Texas and the Border Network for Human Rights filed a lawsuit against Trump in response to his declaration of the national emergency. In addition to being filed on behalf of the communities on the front line of the President’s attempt to seize powers Congress would not give him, the lawsuit is notable for the coalition of attorneys behind it. The legal team includes: former Acting Attorney General Stuart Gerson, who served as a top aide to President George H.W. Bush; Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe, one of the nation’s leading constitutional law experts who represented Al Gore in Bush v. Gore; Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to preventing the United States from declining into a more authoritarian form of government and which includes both liberals and conservatives; the Niskanen Center, a center-right policy think tank; and the law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction to block the President’s emergency declaration from taking effect, laying out why the President’s actions are not supported by the law, violate numerous provisions of the Constitution and U.S. Code, and have immediately inflicted injuries on El Paso County and the Border Network for Human Rights.  In the lead up to signing his emergency proclamation, the President has repeatedly slandered and demonized border and Latino immigrant communities as sources of crime, drugs, and violence. These actions have inflicted harm not only on the plaintiffs in this case, but on immigrant communities and communities of color throughout the United States.

 

On February 21, he tweeted a video supposedly showing “the wall” being built in New Mexico and retweeted the clip the follow day. However, the work going on along the Mexican border is actually renovation of existing barriers — and it is technically not a “wall” but fencing. The video Trump tweeted is of a project in New Mexico where existing vehicle barriers were replaced with higher bollard fencing along a 20-mile stretch, using money appropriated in 2017 (during Trump’s first year in office).

In a news conference last week, Trump actually admitted that he could only renovate existing barriers and not a build new wall.

Meanwhile, the who’s who of Hollywood have been vocal about their disapproval over the developments; the Oscars may have been host-less this year, but they still managed to squeeze in a joke at Trump’s expense within the first ten minutes of the show.

His son, Donald Trump Jr. was quick to respond with satire.

 

On February 25, fifty-eight former U.S. national security officials told the Trump administration in a letter that they are aware of “no emergency that remotely justifies” diverting funds to build a border wall. The officials fact check Trump’s basis for declaring the national emergency, pointing out that illegal border crossings are near 40-year lows, there is no documented terror threat, human and drug trafficking will not be affected by a border wall, and there is no violent crime threat posed by immigrants.

“In the face of a nonexistent threat, redirecting funds for the construction of a wall along the southern border will undermine national security by needlessly pulling resources from Department of Defense programs that are responsible for keeping our troops and our country safe and running effectively,” they said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington Jan. 31, 2019. Pelosi urged members to join in backing a resolution to halt the national emergency. (Photo: Michael Reynolds)

The House plans to vote on February 26 on a resolution to try to block President Donald Trump’s declaration of an emergency along the southern border, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. If both the House and Senate were to pass the resolution and the president were to sign the bill, it would halt the national emergency.

Both the House and Senate would then need to come up with support from two-thirds of lawmakers present to override Trump’s veto, a difficult task. As it stands, only a few Republicans have said publicly they plan to vote with Democrats on the issue.

Compiled by Tulika Chaturvedi, with inputs from The Washington Post, Politico Magazine, The Guardian, Daily Mail, Washington Examiner, Protect Democracy Organization, NBC news, USA Today, and the Wired.