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Commentary: How to screw up an emergency declaration in 10 easy steps

None other than Ann Coulter declared on Friday, "The only national emergency is that our president is an idiot." She has a point. The president's declaration, in the words of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., amounts to "a power grab by a disappointed President, who has gone outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process."

Even the best-executed power grab would have been difficult to defend in court. There is no emergency (border crossings are down), the illegal drug problem (despite Trump's contradicting his own administration) isn't primarily a border problem, and the humanitarian problem that does exist (families fleeing Central America to request asylum) won't be solved by a wall.

Nevertheless, in 10 steps, Trump irretrievably ruined whatever legal case he would have had.

First, he did not address the issue when the Republican Party held majorities in both the House and Senate, when, for example, he had the ability to push through measures on reconciliation.

Second, he rejected a deal for $25 billion in border security in exchange for legalization of "dreamers," which doesn't sound like the sort of thing you'd do in a real emergency.

Third, he signed a continuing resolution that kept the government running until Dec. 8, 2018. Again, you wouldn't agree to that in the face of a real emergency.

Fourth, Congress passed another continuing resolution to keep the government open until Dec. 21, 2018.

Fifth, the president provoked a 35-day shutdown that ended with a three-week continuing resolution. Again, this doesn't give off an emergency "vibe."

Sixth, as appropriators negotiate, the president repeatedly threatens to use emergency powers until Congress gives him what he wants. The critical precondition for an emergency declaration is lack of congressional compliance.

Seventh, appropriators reach agreement - and Trump signs it.

Eighth, there is no report or analysis demonstrating why Congress' response is inadequate. Instead, Trump declares an emergency on the same day as the signing, a transparent effort to eclipse his utter failure to deliver on a campaign promise.

Ninth, at a bizarre Rose Garden press conference on Friday, Trump declared, "I didn't need to do this. ... I just want to do it faster." It is difficult to imagine a more damaging confession that the emergency is figment of Trump's frail ego and thirst to avoid disappointing his base.

Tenth, Trump tells a set of ridiculous lies to justify his border wall. For example, he denies replete evidence from his own administration that the vast amount of illegal drugs come through ports of entry and claims that El Paso had an epidemic crime rate before barriers were built. (But now that the city has barriers and is so safe, why the need for the concrete wall?)

According to Trump, he's received legal advice that his emergency power grab is likely to be enjoined. Well, even Trump's lawyers figured that out. However, Trump's irrational, desperate and incoherent approach has not merely damaged his chances of surviving a court challenge. He has made it infinitely harder for Republicans to defend him and vote against a resolution reversing the declaration. Trump told them there was no emergency.

Any intellectually honest lawmaker cognizant of both this fact pattern and his oath of office would be obliged to vote to end the fraudulent emergency. However, we've already seen Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., prove he is willing to ignore facts (and his oath) to support an authoritarian president. Other Republicans no doubt will follow suit.

There is no better reason for voters to throw out Trump and Senate Republicans in 2020. Those who aren't "idiots" are willfully violating their oaths. Either way, they need to go.

This article was written by Jennifer Rubin, a columnist from The Washington Post.

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