No, Trump Cannot Declare an ‘Emergency’ to Build His Wall

If he did, and used soldiers to build it, they would all be committing a federal crime.

President Trump on Friday said that he was considering the declaration of a “national emergency” along the border with Mexico, which he apparently believes would allow him to divert funds from the military budget to pay for a wall, and to use military personnel to build it.

While it is hard to know exactly what the president has in mind, or whether he has any conception about what it would entail, one thing is clear: Not only would such an action be illegal, but if members of the armed forces obeyed his command, they would be committing a federal crime.

Begin with the basics. From the founding onward, the American constitutional tradition has profoundly opposed the president’s use of the military to enforce domestic law. A key provision, rooted in an 1878 statute and added to the law in 1956, declares that whoever “willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force” to execute a law domestically “shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years” — except when “expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress.”

Another provision, grounded in a statute from 1807 and added to the law in 1981, requires the secretary of defense to “ensure that any activity (including the provision of any equipment or facility or the assignment or detail of any personnel)” must “not include or permit direct participation by a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps in a search, seizure, arrest, or other similar activity unless participation in such activity by such member is otherwise authorized by law.”

In response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans, Congress created an express exception to the rules, and authorized the military to play a backup role in “major public emergencies.” But in 2008 Congress and President Bush repealed this sweeping exception. Is President Trump aware of this express repudiation of the power which he is threatening to invoke?

The statute books do contain a series of carefully crafted exceptions to the general rule. Most relevantly, Congress has granted the Coast Guard broad powers to enforce the law within the domestic waters of the United States. But there is no similar provision granting the other military services a comparable power to “search, seize and arrest” along the Mexican border. Given Congress’s decision of 2008, this silence speaks louder than words. Similarly, the current military appropriations bill fails to exempt military professionals from criminal punishment for violating the law in their use of available funds.

It is, I suppose, possible to imagine a situation in which the president might take advantage of the most recent exception, enacted in 2011, which authorized the military detention of suspected terrorists associated with Al Qaeda or the Taliban. But despite President Trump’s unsupported claims about “terrorists” trying to cross the border, it is an unconscionable stretch to use this proviso to support using the military for operations against the desperate refugees from Central America seeking asylum in our country.

It is even less plausible for the president to suspend these restrictions under the National Emergencies Act of 1976. From the Great Depression through the Cold War, presidents systematically abused emergency powers granted them by Congress in some 470 statutes, culminating in the Watergate fiasco. In response, the first section of the 1976 act terminated all existing emergencies and created a framework of checks and balances on the president’s arbitrary will.

If President Trump declared an emergency, Section Five of the act gives the House of Representatives the right to repudiate it immediately, then pass their resolution to the Senate — which is explicitly required to conduct a floor vote within 15 days. Since President Trump’s “emergency” declaration would be a direct response to his failure to convince Congress that national security requires his wall, it is hard to believe that a majority of the Senate, if forced to vote, would accept his show of contempt for their authority.

The Supreme Court’s 1953 decision in Youngstown v. Sawyer would be critical in Congressional consideration of such a decision. In a canonical opinion by Justice Robert Jackson, the court invalidated President Truman’s attempt in 1952 to use his powers as commander in chief to nationalize steel mills in the face of labor strikes. The decision imposed fundamental constitutional limits on the president’s power to claim that a national emergency — in this case, the Korean War — allowed him to override express provisions preventing him from using those powers domestically.

Rudy Giuliani is the fool for our time

Rudy Giuliani started Tuesday in the manner Americans have come to expect of the president’s lawyer: He attacked former FBI director James Comey by tweeting a cartoon image of Bashful from Disney’s “Snow White.”

Giuliani deleted the tweet, and anyway, it’s not clear why he chose Bashful.

.. He had told CNN on Sunday that “no one signed” a letter of intent for Donald Trump to build a Moscow project. On Tuesday, CNN obtained the letter — signed by Trump.

Giuliani, asked by the New York Daily News to explain himself, said, “I don’t think I said nobody signed it.” Completing the reversal, he said “of course” Trump signed it: “How could you send it but nobody signed it?”

.. The “fool” has been a dramatic fixture at least since Shakespeare scribbled, and Giuliani is the fool for our time. Occasionally he speaks accidental truths, but mostly he plays the clown.

.. “Twitter allowed someone to invade my text with a disgusting anti-President message,” an alarmed Giuliani tweeted a few weeks ago, calling Twitter “card-carrying anti-Trumpers.” In fact, Giuliani had accidentally sabotaged his own tweet with a punctuation error — “G-20.In” — that automatically created a hyperlink to an Indian Web address. A clever observer quickly bought the domain and created a page that said “Donald Trump is a traitor.” Giuliani’s errant accusation was all the funnier because he’s also Trump’s “cybersecurity adviser.”

.. The former New York mayor, 74, has long been a loose cannon, asserting that there had not been any “successful Islamic terrorist attacks” during the George W. Bush administration, saying Trump’s travel ban was a legal way to do a “Muslim ban,” and predicting a “pretty big surprise” right before Comey reopened the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Alternately ill-informed and indiscreet, he’s just the guy you’d want as your lawyer.

.. Giuliani began as Trump’s lawyer in the spring by comparing FBI agents to “stormtroopers” and later claiming a law-enforcement informant was a “spy.”

.. He said he would charge special counsel Robert Mueller’s office “with a lance” to defend Ivanka Trump, but Jared Kushner is “disposable.”

.. He said Trump couldn’t be indicted as president even if he “shot” Comey.

.. He undermined months of Trump’s “no collusion” claims by proclaiming instead that “collusion is not a crime.”

He defended Trump on NBC’s “Meet the Press” by saying “truth isn’t truth.

He admitted publicly that the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting was held “for the purpose of getting information about Clinton,” upending the official line that it was about adoption.

He suggested guilt when he told the Daily Beast “this was not a big crime” because “nobody got killed, nobody got robbed.”

And, days ago, he raised the possibility that associate Roger Stone gave Trump advance notice that WikiLeaks would release emails about Clinton stolen by Russiasaying “if” Stone had, “it’s not a crime.”

Clearly, some Giuliani dopiness is an effort to divulge damaging information gently. But he often makes matters worse.

.. Giuliani announced that Trump reimbursed Cohen for hush money to a porn actress. But he seemed baffled when told Cohen had claimed it was his own money: “He did?” Retreating, Giuliani said Trump wasn’t told about the payments, “but even if he was told, he wouldn’t have remembered it.” Further backpedaling, Giuliani said, “I’m not an expert on the facts” and issued a written statement “to clarify the views I expressed over the past few days.”

A similar mop-up came after Giuliani volunteered on TV that there had been a second meeting between Trump associates and Russians. Hours later, he said the just-referenced meeting “never happened.”

On Sunday, Giuliani was back to truth-isn’t-truth, telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that “unless you’re God . . . you will never know what the truth is” from Cohen. And Giuliani told Fox News’s Chris Wallace that Mueller would interview Trump “over my dead body — but you know, I could be dead.”

Perish the thought! We need Giuliani’s entertainment. But when he dies, there should be a memorable scene when he goes before the One Who Knows Truth.

“I didn’t lie,” Giuliani will say, “but even if I did, it wasn’t a crime to be Dopey.”

 

Comments:

I always felt Rudy used 9/11 more than actually helping.
.. Need for money and attention, and significant cognitive decline due to age have brought about this sorry spectacle.
In the Trump WH age-related cognitive decline has a pretty good chance of passing unnoticed.
.. Trump is the anti-King Midas.

.. I’m sorry, but this column is mistaken.  Giuliani is playing out his assigned role precisely as intended.  Self-contradictions, deliberate falsehoods, apparent “misstatements,” bizarre tweets — all external hallmarks of Rudy’s boss, and Rudy’s a talented understudy.  The purpose behind all this playacting is to distract and confuse, and it works.  Trump continues to operate on the principle that the longer he can keep people shocked, off-balance, outraged, distracted, and confused, the longer he can rake in ill-gotten gains from his real aim: fleecing the American public.  Giuliani has been recruited to assist in the Dept. of Misdirection.

The only fool thing Giuliani has done is to place the slightest reliance on Trump’s promise of whatever payback The Gilded Don has dangled in exchange for Rudy’s excellent diversionary stunts.   A substantial group of construction subcontractors have learned, to their lasting pain and sorrow, what Trump’s promises are worth.

.. I agree.  Fortunately, Giuliani has no power or authority so people just ignore his inane pronouncements.  In the words of Jimmy Breslin, “Rudy Guiliani is a small man in search of a balcony.”
.. I think you’re giving them both more credit than they deserve. IMHO Trump is just a bully and Giuliani really is just a fool. But hey, there’s every chance you’re right, I’m just not sure they are smart enough to be so devious. 
.. Trump, Giuliani, and Gingrich: The Three Wives Men
.. Oh god another moron who thinks he is a stable genius.  Surely Rudy’s third divorce is having an affect on him.  And getting kicked out of his law firm for disgracing them with his idiocy, and having another exwife asking for more money, just has Rudy rattled. Please somebody remove this blight on the Constitution from our eyes and ears.
.. I find it amazing that anyone would even have this man appear in front of any camera.  If one lived in NYC when he was Mayor (as I did) you would know the truth about him.
He was a Mayor whose interest was to clean up the parks by moving all the homeless out of them with nowhere to go. Put them in the streets with no plan.
Did nothing for NYC education, nothing for housing, nothing for women’s or Gay rights and on and on.
The final straw was this America’s Mayor standing in front of Grace Mansion and telling the world he was divorcing his then wife (Donna Hanover) to marry his mistress.  Never telling her in person.
What kind of man is this?  He is exactly the clown you see today licking the boots of a President who like Rudy is a man without scruples and who lies on TV then is brought back to reality with proof that he spouts these lies and thinks he will get away with them.  Todays world has everything recorded.  Mr Giuliani please go back to your senior home and take your meds.
.. Could it be that Rudy is really a secret double agent who actually works for Mueller? Every time he opens his mouth, Rudy digs the hole deeper for Trump.
.. Very nicely done. The most puzzling thing about Giuliani is that he doesn’t have the self-awareness to realize that he looks foolish and he apparently doesn’t have anyone close to him who he trusts to tell him that he looks foolish either. He has chosen a very difficult role: mouthpiece for an habitually lying, narcissistic degenerate. Very few people could take that role and emerge with any dignity. In fact, most people with dignity would not take that role. Guliani will not be remembered as the Mayor of New York City during 9/11 nor as the U.S. Attorney who once tried to clean up Wall Street. He will be remembered as Trump’s tool, and as this piece says, as a fool.

.. Mr. Rudolph Guiliani is second only to the TRumpster himself in making the TRumpster look guilty as sin.

‘Winter is coming’: Allies fear Trump isn’t prepared for gathering legal storm

President Trump’s advisers and allies are increasingly worried that he has neither the staff nor the strategy to protect himself from a possible Democratic takeover of the House, which would empower the opposition party to shower the administration with subpoenas or even pursue impeachment charges

.. The president and some of his advisers have discussed possibly adding veteran defense attorney Abbe Lowell, who currently represents Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, to Trump’s personal legal team

..Trump announced Wednesday that

  1. Donald McGahn will depart as White House counsel this fall, once the Senate confirms Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh. Three of McGahn’s deputies —
  2. Greg Katsas,
  3. Uttam Dhillon and
  4. Makan Delrahim — have departed, and a fourth,
  5. Stefan Passantino, will have his last day Friday.

That leaves John Eisenberg, who handles national security, as the lone deputy counsel.

.. McGahn and other aides have invoked the prospect of impeachment to persuade the president not to take actions or behave in ways that they believe would hurt him, officials said.

Still, Trump has not directed his lawyers or his political aides to prepare an action plan, leaving allies to fret that the president does not appreciate the magnitude of what could be in store next year.

.. Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani said he and the president have discussed the possibility that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III will issue a damning report to Congress.

.. If Democrats control the House, the oversight committees likely would use their subpoena power as a weapon to assail the administration, investigating with a vengeance. The committees could hold hearings about policies

  1. such as the travel ban affecting majority-Muslim countries and
  2. “zero tolerance” family separation, as well as on possible
  3. ethical misconduct throughout the administration or the Trump family’s private businesses.
..  “Assuming Democrats win the House, which we all believe is a very strong likelihood, the White House will be under siege. But it’s like tumbleweeds rolling down the halls over there. Nobody’s prepared for war.”
.. Trump has told confidants that some of his aides have highly competent lawyers such as Lowell, who represents Kushner, and William A. Burck, who represents McGahn as well as former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon.
“He wonders why he doesn’t have lawyers like that,” said one person who has discussed the matter with Trump.
Another adviser said Trump remarked this year, “I need a lawyer like Abbe.”
Giuliani said that he has not heard of Trump considering adding Lowell to the team but that he would be a great choice because of his thorough and aggressive style.

“This president might like that better,” Giuliani said. “If he thinks someone isn’t being tough enough, he has a tendency to go out to defend himself. And that’s not good.”

.. “I would think that the type of lawyer most able to handle the impeachment scenario would be someone from the appellate and Supreme Court bar — someone of the Ted Olson or Paul Clement or Andy Pincus level, someone who knows how to make the kind of arguments should it come to a vote in the Senate,” Corallo said.

.. Emmet Flood, a White House lawyer and McGahn ally who handles the special counsel’s Russia investigation, has long been considered a top prospect to replace McGahn.

.. Flood, often described as a lawyer’s lawyer, is in many ways the opposite of Trump and Giuliani, yet the president has told advisers he is impressed by Flood’s legal chops and hard-line positions defending the prerogatives of the White House.

.. White House aides, including deputy chief of staff Johnny ­DeStefano and political director Bill Stepien, have tried to ratchet down Trump’s expectations for the elections, saying that projections look grim in the House.

.. Another concern is that the White House, which already has struggled in attracting top-caliber talent to staff positions, could face an exodus if Democrats take over the House, because aides fear their mere proximity to the president could place them in legal limbo and possibly result in hefty lawyers’ fees.

“It stops good people from potentially serving because nobody wants to inherit a $400,000 legal bill,” said another Trump adviser.

.. the West Wing staff is barely equipped to handle basic crisis communications functions, such as distributing robust talking points to key surrogates, and question how the operation could handle an impeachment trial or other potential battles.

Trump sees the administration as having a singular focus — him — and therefore is less concerned with the institution of the presidency and not aware of the vast infrastructure often required to protect it, according to some of his allies.

.. Jack Quinn, who served as White House counsel under Clinton, said his office had at least 40 lawyers and as many as 60 during key times.

.. “I appreciate that Rudy Giuliani is doing a lot of the public speaking and perhaps some other things,” Quinn said. But, he added, “it’s a little bit of a mystery to me who is doing the outside legal work.”

McGahn, White House Counsel, Has Cooperated Extensively in Mueller Inquiry

The White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, has cooperated extensively in the special counsel investigation, sharing detailed accounts about the episodes at the heart of the inquiry into whether President Trump obstructed justice, including some that investigators would not have learned of otherwise, according to a dozen current and former White House officials and others briefed on the matter.1

In at least three voluntary interviews with investigators that totaled 30 hours over the past nine months, Mr. McGahn described the president’s fury toward the Russia investigation and the ways in which he urged Mr. McGahn to respond to it

.. It is not clear that Mr. Trump appreciates the extent to which Mr. McGahn has cooperated with the special counsel. The president wrongly believed that Mr. McGahn would act as a personal lawyer would for clients and solely defend his interests to investigators

..  Mr. McGahn cautioned to investigators that he never saw Mr. Trump go beyond his legal authorities, though the limits of executive power are murky.

.. the two rarely speak one on one — the White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, and other advisers are usually present for their meetings — and Mr. Trump has questioned Mr. McGahn’s loyalty.

.. Mr. McGahn that he has called the president “King Kong” behind his back, to connote his volcanic anger, people close to Mr. McGahn said.

.. Mr. Burck said that Mr. McGahn had been obliged to cooperate with the special counsel. “President Trump, through counsel, declined to assert any privilege over Mr. McGahn’s testimony

.. He wanted to take on Mr. Mueller directly, attacking his credibility and impeding investigators. But two of his newly hired lawyers, John M. Dowd and Ty Cobb, have said they took Mr. Trump at his word that he did nothing wrong and sold him on an open-book strategy.

.. As White House counsel, not a personal lawyer, he viewed his role as protector of the presidency, not of Mr. Trump. Allowing a special counsel to root around the West Wing could set a precedent harmful to future administrations.

..  Mr. Trump blamed him for a number of fraught moments in his first months in office, including the chaotic, failed early attempts at a ban on travelers from some majority-Muslim countries and, in particular, the existence of Mr. Mueller’s investigation.

.. Mr. McGahn’s decision to cooperate with the special counsel grew out of Mr. Dowd’s and Mr. Cobb’s game plan, now seen as misguided by some close to the president.

.. Last fall, Mr. Mueller’s office asked to interview Mr. McGahn. To the surprise of the White House Counsel’s Office, Mr. Trump and his lawyers signaled that they had no objection, without knowing the extent of what Mr. McGahn was going to tell investigators.

Mr. McGahn was stunned

.. Mr. Burck has explained to others that he told White House advisers that they did not appreciate the president’s legal exposure and that it was “insane” that Mr. Trump did not fight a McGahn interview in court.

..  the White House has to understand that a client like Mr. Trump probably made politically damaging statements to Mr. McGahn as he weighed whether to intervene in the Russia investigation.

.. Mr. McGahn and his lawyer grew suspicious. They began telling associates that they had concluded that the president had decided to let Mr. McGahn take the fall for decisions that could be construed as obstruction of justice, like the Comey firing, by telling the special counsel that he was only following shoddy legal advice from Mr. McGahn.

.. McGahn told people he was determined to avoid the fate of the White House counsel for President Richard M. Nixon, John W. Dean, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice in the Watergate scandal.

Mr. McGahn decided to fully cooperate with Mr. Mueller. It was, he believed, the only choice he had to protect himself.

.. “This sure has echoes of Richard Nixon’s White House counsel, John Dean, who in 1973 feared that Nixon was setting him up as a fall guy for Watergate and secretly gave investigators crucial help while still in his job,” said the historian Michael Beschloss.

.. By exerting attorney-client privilege, which allows the president to legally withhold information, they would have gained the right to learn what Mr. McGahn planned to tell investigators and what he might reveal that could damage the president. But the president’s lawyers never went through that process, although they told people that they believed they still had the ability to stop Mr. Mueller from handing over to Congress the accounts of witnesses like Mr. McGahn and others.

.. Mr. Burck and Mr. McGahn met the special counsel team in November for the first time and shared all that Mr. McGahn knew.

.. Mr. McGahn gave to Mr. Mueller’s investigators, the people said,

.. it became apparent that Mr. McGahn and Mr. Burck had overestimated the amount of thought that they believed the president put into his legal strategy