As Trump prepares to address the nation about the non-existent “crisis” at the Southern Border, possibly to justify his invocation of a “national emergency” that would have the military seizing property and building his precious wall without authorization, Jonah Goldberg — yes, I know, but I think he has a point here — has an interesting theory about the thinking in the White House. He begins by pointing out what a terrible idea it is:
Do we really want to establish the precedent that the president can simply declare “It’s an emergency” like some magical incantation and then completely bypass property rights and the will of Congress just so he can fulfill a campaign promise that, if Sam Nunberg is to be believed, began as a consultant’s gimmick to get the candidate Trump to talk about immigration and what a great builder he is?
Moreover, if Trump actually attempted to use the military to seize private land, spending money Congress did not authorize, think of what the news cycle would look like, not from Trump’s perspective but from the perspective of other elected Republicans. Assuming that the Supreme Court or Congress didn’t stop him — a big assumption — would you like to run for office defending hourly images of armed U.S. troops kicking in doors or rolling out concertina wire? Is it beyond imagining that at least one Texas or Arizona rancher would get shot defending his property?
The most plausible theory circulating in Washington is that the White House — if not necessarily Trump himself — understands that the order would be blocked almost immediately until the courts could deal with the blizzard of lawsuits that would instantly result. But Trump would have a good talking point for his base about how he did everything he could but was stymied by the “establishment” or the “Deep State” or some such.
This seems quite plausible to me. The courts have routinely struck down his executive orders, with the exception of the Muslim travel ban, and that has allowed Trump to rail against those terrible judges who won’t let him do what is necessary to protect the country. Politically, that’s a win for him, especially with his base. I doubt Trump is doing it that consciously; I think he just genuinely thinks he should be able to do whatever he wants, with no constitutional boundaries. But his advisers, who are far more politically savvy, are likely not discouraging this knowing that the bad result wouldn’t happen because the courts won’t allow it, but that this is a win for Trump in the end.