Trump blows his crime trum­pet

● Pres­i­dent re­peats na­tional emer­gency threat but says he’ll wait – while thou­sands stay with­out pay

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - News - Eleonore Sens and Se­bas­tian Smith

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has again threat­ened to de­clare a na­tional emer­gency along the bor­der with Mex­ico as he seeks fund­ing for a wall he says will keep out dan­ger­ous im­mi­grants – his lat­est jab in a fight with Democrats in Congress that has now shut down parts of the gov­ern­ment for a record­ty­ing 21 days.

Such a dec­la­ra­tion, al­most cer­tain to be chal­lenged in court, would in the­ory al­low Trump to side­step Congress and di­vert money from mil­i­tary projects to­wards con­struc­tion of the wall that has been a core fo­cus of his na­tion­al­ist cam­paign.

Speak­ing to Fox News in an in­ter­view broad­cast on Thurs­day evening, Trump re­it­er­ated he had “the ab­so­lute right to de­clare a na­tional emer­gency”.

But pressed on a time­line for do­ing so, he said he would “see what hap­pens”.

An­a­lysts say the dec­la­ra­tion would prob­a­bly be chal­lenged as a case of pres­i­den­tial over­reach, which means the wall could still face be­ing blocked.

But it would give Trump po­lit­i­cal cover with his base by show­ing he’d done what he could to build the wall. At that point, Trump could end the shut­down and de­clare a win.

The em­bar­rass­ing clo­sure of parts of the US gov­ern­ment will set a record of 22 days on Satur­day.

Mean­while, on Fri­day, some 800,000 fed­eral work­ers who are work­ing with­out pay or not at all be­cause of the im­passe will miss their first pay­check since the shut­down.

Trump toured the bor­der with Mex­ico on Thurs­day to press his case for a wall and warned of mur­der­ers and gang­sters spread­ing across the coun­try.

He used the back­drop of the Rio Grande bor­der river at McAllen, Texas, to ramp up what has al­ready turned into a hugely messy po­lit­i­cal fight with Demo­cratic op­po­nents.

With typ­i­cal rhetor­i­cal flour­ishes, Trump said that only build­ing more walls along the Mex­i­can bor­der could stop an on­slaught of vi­o­lent crime.

“They just go where there’s no se­cu­rity and you don’t even know the dif­fer­ence be­tween Mex­ico and the United States,” he told a meet­ing of bor­der pa­trol of­fi­cers.

“They have women tied up, they have tape over their mouths, elec­tri­cal tape.”

“If we had a bar­rier of any kind, a pow­er­ful bar­rier, whether its steel or con­crete . . . we would stop it cold.”

Op­po­si­tion Democrats are re­fus­ing to ap­prove $5.7bn (R79bn) in wall fund­ing, say­ing that over­whelm­ing num­bers of il­le­gal im­mi­grants do not com­mit se­ri­ous crimes and that Trump is mainly pro­mot­ing the project to sat­isfy his right-wing base.

Trump said that il­le­gal im­mi­grant crime stretched right up into the north of the coun­try. How­ever, widely re­spected stud­ies show that il­le­gal im­mi­grants com­mit fewer crimes than peo­ple born in the United States.

Trump’s re­fusal to sign a fund­ing bill with­out money for the wall has re­sulted in a par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down, with hun­dreds of thou­sands of fed­eral em­ploy­ees – in­clud­ing air traf­fic con­trollers, the FBI and Coast Guard – go­ing with­out pay.

Even some leg­is­la­tors in Trump’s Re­pub­li­can Party are wa­ver­ing in their sup­port for the pres­i­dent as the shut­down causes dif­fi­cul­ties for their con­stituents.

Mean­while, sig­nalling he’s ready to main­tain the game of brinks­man­ship, Trump tweeted on ar­rival in Texas that he would scrap a visit to the an­nual World Eco­nomic Fo­rum in Davos, Switzer­land, which runs from Jan­uary 21 to25.

Trump had been ex­pected to make a brief ap­pear­ance at the in­flu­en­tial get-to­gether, at­tended by many world lead­ers, but said that op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic “in­tran­si­gence” re­quired him to stay home.

Trump said he was ready to ex­pand the de­bate over fund­ing for a bor­der wall to some of the other is­sues sur­round­ing the over-bur­dened US im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem – a sug­ges­tion that could open the door to work­ing with Democrats.

“I would like to do a much broader form of im­mi­gra­tion,” he said in Texas.

But through­out the day, the frus­trated pres­i­dent also re­peated his threat to de­clare a na­tional emer­gency and give him­self au­thor­ity to go around Congress if he can’t get ap­proval for the wall.

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