US President Donald Trump is scheduled to address Americans on the issue of his proposed border wall on Tuesday night (Wednesday morning IST), amid fears he might go down the slippery slope of declaring a national emergency to draft the US military and its budget for the project.
“I am pleased to inform you that I will Address the Nation on the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border.
Tuesday night at 9pm Eastern,” Trump tweeted on Monday, even as critics of the wall maintained there was no crisis, and fencing the border is a Trump obsession aimed at riling up his anti-immigration base.
Speculation that Trump would use the address to declare a national emergency gathered steam after he approvingly cited a Democratic lawmaker Adam Smith, the new Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who agreed there is a provision in law that says a president can declare an emergency,” without adding the Congressman’s reservation: "Declaring an emergency on our border ... to take $20-30B out of the Dept. of Defense to build a wall is probably the worst public policy idea I’ve heard in about 10 years."
Vice-President Mike Pence and senior administration officials did nothing to quell reports that a national emergency declaration is in the works, repeatedly echoing Trump’s claim that “there is a humanitarian and national security crisis.”
Democrats have warned that any declaration of emergency will be not only be challenged in courts, but lawmakers could further curtail presidential powers in the future to prevent its misuse.
“We will oppose any effort by the president to make himself a king and a tyrant.
The president has no authority to usurp Congress’s power of the purse,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, said during a visit to the border on Monday.
Trump himself is scheduled to head to the border on Wednesday to make his point about a situation he views as a grave national security crisis, amid growing resentment in Washington about the partial government shutdown that has put 800,000 federal workers on ice.
Harrowing tales are starting to emerge from the fallout due to the shutdown, including airport security workers calling in sick because they have not been paid and therefore cannot make it to work.
The shutdown, now into its 18th day, follows disagreement between the new Democrat-controlled House and the White House over budgeting several government departments whose funding has lapsed.
Trump is refusing to accept any Congress proposal to fund the government that does not include the money he is demanding for the wall.
Many officials and workers are now openly criticizing the President for holding them hostage in a fight they have nothing to do with.
Meanwhile, US television networks, which agreed to Trump’s request for a prime-time telecast of his speech after some deliberation, have also consented to air Democrats’ response to the address after a fervid debate on whether the President would get away with lies and disinformation.
"Now that the television networks have decided to air the President's address, which if his past statements are any indication will be full of malice and misinformation, Democrats must immediately be given equal airtime," Democrat leaders Senator Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement last night, even as various liberal quarters demanded that Trump’s speech should be subjected to a delayed telecast to enable instant fact-checking given his propensity for lies and dissembling.
Trump is widely seen to be economical with the truth. In the latest instance, he maintained that all previous presidents had endorsed his idea of a southern wall and conversations with him, forcing the four living ex-presidents (Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama) to deny his assertion.
Recent reports and studies show that illegal border crossings have actually dropped and a majority of Americans are against the wall, but such studies go against the Trump narrative of a grave crisis at the Southern border that required a massive wall across 2000 miles.
Ahead of Tuesday night's speech, Trump aides went so far as to claim that 4000 suspected terrorists had been apprehended at the Southern border, forcing even he pro-administration Fox News to fact-check and say most were apprehended at airports.
Only twelve had been detained at the southern border.