Emergency Declaration Looms Over 2020 Election

President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to build the wall at the southern border will be a powerful weapon in his arsenal as he seeks a second term, regardless of whether he is spurned by the courts or Congress, strategists say.

“As of right now, Trump is sort of running on three issues, one of which is the capitalism vs. socialism debate, late-term abortion, and then it’s border security,” Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist, told the Washington Examiner. “I think the national emergency sends the message ‘I am doing everything I can, I am not walking away from this issue no matter what, and you, the voters, need to help me complete it.’”

Trump announced in the Rose Garden last month he would be declaring a national emergency, which allows him to skirt Congress and redirect federal dollars for construction of the border wall.

The president had teased an emergency declaration initially during the 35-day partial government shutdown but stopped short of declaring one and instead urged Congress to reach an agreement on a border deal.

Lawmakers ultimately agreed to a spending bill that allocated $1.375 billion for Trump’s border wall. Rather than shut down federal agencies for a second time, the president opted to sign the legislation and then take unilateral action, including reallocating $3.6 billion from military construction funds under his emergency declaration.

Trump’s action was swiftly challenged in federal courts in the District of Columbia and California, and the president himself acknowledges that, if a case lands before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, he will likely face defeat. However, the president is optimistic that the Supreme Court would rule in his favor.

A protracted legal battle could be a boon for Trump, O’Connell said, as it keeps the issue of border security in the news in the lead-up to the 2020 election.

“The litigation allows him to simplify it — are you for border security or against border security?” he said. “What he’s trying to show is how much Democrats and some Republicans, the lengths they will go to try to stop him from doing what he sees as his constitutional duty, which is protecting the safety and security of the U.S. and its citizens.”

Read more from Melissa Quinn at the Washington Examiner

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Analysis & Political Strategy