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The Real Problem With Trump’s National Emergency Plan

3 193 3286
15.02.2019

President Trump is verging on a declaration of national emergency — purely in order to fund his wall. And if he does, the courts may — or may not — reject his gambit.

But the fact that he may actually possess the legal authority to require agencies to waste billions of dollars simply to fulfill a foolish campaign promise he thinks won him the election is itself scandalous. The theatrics surrounding his petulant threat to do so obscure a vital question for our democracy going far beyond this (non)crisis, a question to which Congress should immediately turn: Who decides what constitutes a national emergency?

In hundreds of laws, Congress has given the president the power to decide. (The Brennan Center for Justice has compiled an exhaustive list.) But by failing to define crucial terms, legal standards and accountability rules, Congress has handed presidents an all-too-handy tool of tyranny commonly used by autocrats to amass more power, crush dissent and eviscerate democratic institutions. In Mr. Trump’s case, it has handed an unguided missile to an ignorant, impetuous man-child.

Congress should have known better. After all, it enacted the National Emergencies Act of 1976, which purported to regulate such declarations, only two years after President Richard Nixon’s abuses of power forced his resignation. The act actually made matters worse in a key respect: It defined a national emergency as “a general declaration of emergency made by the........

© The New York Times