There is no end in sight for the partial government shutdown. Talks between Democrats and the White House last night did not achieve any results and President Donald Trump is still demanding $5bn for a border wall that most of the country does not want.
As newly elected Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is adamant she will not pay for a border wall, Trump has flirted with the possibility of declaring a national emergency and using the military to build the wall. Trump has suggested using the military in this way before, but he now seems closer than ever to acting on it.
“We’re looking at a national emergency because we have a national emergency – just read the papers,” Trump said on Sunday. But it is not clear what form a national emergency would take or if Trump has the power to enforce one. He would certainly be opposed in Congress and possibly the courts.
Trump’s justification for declaring an emergency is also flimsy. His Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has falsely claimed that some 4,000 terrorists have entered the country because of lax security at the southern border. This is simply not true, as the Pentagon has made clear.
Any state of emergency would be a response to inflated or entirely non-existent threats, which is one reason why Democrats are opposed to a border wall. The Trump administration has consistently exaggerated the dangers from immigrants crossing the southern border.
If Trump chooses to escalate the government crisis by moving to declare a national emergency, he could find himself opposed by both Democrats and Republicans. Many in Trump’s own party are not in favor of an expensive and ineffective border wall and could see a national emergency as a blatant attempt to circumvent democratic institutions.