Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

This #GivingTuesday, whatever is your first priority, your second priority has to be independent media.

2021 has been one of the most dangerous and difficult years for independent journalism that we’ve ever seen. Our democracy is facing serial existential threats including the climate emergency, vaccine apartheid amid deadly pandemic, a global crisis for biodiversity, reproductive freedoms under assault, rising authoritarianism worldwide, and corporate-funded corruption of democracy that run beneath all of this. Giving Tuesday is a critical opportunity to make sure our journalism remains funded so that we can stay focused on all your priority issues. Please contribute today to keep Common Dreams alive and growing.

Please Help This #GivingTuesday -- Though our content is free to all, less than 1% of our readers give. We’re counting on you. Please help Common Dreams end the year strong.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks on border security during a Rose Garden event at the White House February 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump is expected to declare a national emergency to free up federal funding to build a wall along the southern border. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Why We Must Stop an Unstable Trump and His Dangerous National Emergency Declaration

The United States is a constitutional democracy, not a monarchy.

Robert Weissman

Today's presidential declaration of a national emergency is an outrageous abuse of power – perhaps the most dangerous yet by the unstable and increasingly autocratic President Donald Trump. If this invocation of emergency on false pretenses is tolerated, it could justify almost limitless abuses of presidential and military power, including far-reaching clampdowns on civil rights.

This unlawful and unconstitutional action is going to be challenged in court, including by Public Citizen. On behalf of several Texas landowners and a Texas environmental organization that will experience firsthand the immediate impact of Trump’s illegal emergency declaration, we will sue to challenge his unconstitutional attempt to circumvent the legislative process.

"If the Republican, Democratic and Independent members of the U.S. Congress are to uphold their oath of office, they must act immediately to overturn Trump's emergency declaration."

Although we think the law and Constitution is on our side, we can’t count on the courts to act quickly or ultimately to restrain Trump.

The United States is a constitutional democracy, not a monarchy. If the Republican, Democratic and Independent members of the U.S. Congress are to uphold their oath of office, they must act immediately to overturn Trump's emergency declaration. Under the National Emergencies Act, the Congress can override the president's emergency declaration. The House of Representatives is very likely to pass such a resolution; and if it does, then the Senate must take it up. With several Republican senators having stated their opposition to the emergency declaration, there is a real chance it can pass, with enough public pressure.

There is no serious claim to be made of an emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border to justify construction of a wall. Every halfhearted and palpably fabricated rationale to justify claims of emergency has been thoroughly and embarrassingly debunked: Unauthorized immigration is not surging, there is no terrorist invasion from Mexico, illegal drug traffic is channeled through legal ports of entry, not open border areas. The only crisis at the border is the buildup in Mexico of families seeking asylum in the United States – but those people are seeking legal entry into the United States, and the crisis is due to the Trump administration's refusal to afford them humane treatment.

No, Trump's emergency declaration has nothing to do with any emergency. It is due entirely to his political problem of being unable to secure congressional appropriations to construct a racist and needless wall.

The danger of Trump's action to America is not limited to the outrage of wasting taxpayer money or the immorality of building a wall that is designed only to symbolize disdain for and antagonism to people of color seeking refuge in our country.

"If the president can merely cry 'emergency' to override national law and contravene explicit congressional action—particularly when the claimed emergency is transparently fraudulent—then it is hard to know what limits exist on presidential power."

Trump has declared an emergency to circumvent an explicit congressional decision not to fund the wall and to redirect funds in a way that would be illegal in the absence of an emergency declaration (and which we believe is illegal even with the emergency declaration).

If the president can merely cry "emergency" to override national law and contravene explicit congressional action—particularly when the claimed emergency is transparently fraudulent—then it is hard to know what limits exist on presidential power. What's to stop the president from declaring an emergency and limiting the right to protest? To round up people of color en masse to combat purported gang activity? To deploy the military on the streets to maintain order? To censor social media and Internet conversations?

Prior presidents have, for the most part, exercised self-restraint against use and misuse of emergency powers. But this president does not know the meaning of self-restraint. If the slide to authoritarianism and tyranny is to be averted, he will need to be restrained – in the first place by the Congress and, if not,  hopefully the courts, but ultimately by the American people.

It is imperative that Congress must act to stop Trump, and We the People must make Congress do that.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Robert Weissman

Robert Weissman

Robert Weissman is the president of Public Citizen. Weissman was formerly director of Essential Action, editor of Multinational Monitor, a magazine that tracks corporate actions worldwide, and a public interest attorney at the Center for Study of Responsive Law. He was a leader in organizing the 2000 IMF and World Bank protests in D.C. and helped make HIV drugs available to the developing world.

 

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Number of Covid Boosters Given in US Exceeds Single Shots in 8 African Nations Combined

"Our leaders' failure to help bring the vaccines to everyone, everywhere will keep us on a cruel and never-ending cycle of illness, death, and economic suffering."

Jake Johnson ·


Omar Hangs Up After Boebert Uses Call to Double Down on 'Outright Bigotry and Hate'

"Instead of apologizing for her Islamophobic comments and fabricated lies, Rep. Boebert refused to publicly acknowledge her hurtful and dangerous comments."

Jessica Corbett ·


Win for Alabama Workers as NLRB Orders New Union Vote After Amazon's Alleged Misconduct

A union leader said the decision confirmed that "Amazon's intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace."

Jessica Corbett ·


'For the Sake of Peace,' Anti-War Groups Demand Biden Return to Nuclear Deal With Iran

"It's time to put differences aside and return to the Iran nuclear deal," said one advocate.

Julia Conley ·


'That's for Them to Decide': UK Secretary Rebuked for Claiming Vaccine Patent Waiver Won't Be 'Helpful' to Global Poor

One U.K. lawmaker asked when the government would "start putting the need to end this pandemic in front of the financial interests of Big Pharma?"

Andrea Germanos ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo