Cheerio, Power peeps. I'm just back from London where the only thing people wanted to talk about more than #Brexit was ... Donald Trump! Although my favorite topic of discussion is still jam'geddon. Tips, comments, recipes? Reach out and sign up. Thanks for waking up with us.
At the White House
NO SURPRISE HERE: A coalition of 16 states yesterday filed a federal lawsuit aimed at blocking President Trump from following through on his emergency declaration to use existing money to build his border wall.
For over a month now, lawmakers on Capitol Hill and even White House staffers had warned Trump against taking this route, outlining the potential unwanted political and legal repercussions. Republicans, especially in the Senate, are divided on the move, which is “one of the most serious executive branch challenges to congressional authority in decades.”
- “He is usurping congressional authority,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told the New York Times. “If the president can reallocate for his purposes billions of dollars in federal funding that Congress has approved for specific purposes and have been signed into law, that has the potential to render the appropriations process meaningless.”
- “Four Republicans might be enough to join with Senate Democrats and pass legislation rebuking the president, and leadership aides put the number of potential defectors as high as 10,” reports the Times.
Happy Presidents' Day: Sixteen states governed by Democratic governors — with the exception of Maryland, though that state's attorney general is a Democrat — are seeking an injunction to “prevent the president from acting on his emergency declaration while the case plays out in the courts,” per my colleague Amy Goldstein.
The complaint, filed in a U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (known for ruling against Trump), accuses the president of “an unconstitutional and unlawful scheme” and argues the states are working “to protect their residents, natural resources, and economic interests from President Donald J. Trump’s flagrant disregard of fundamental separation of powers principles engrained in the United States Constitution.” The lawsuit cites a handful of Trump's own tweets.
- Key facts from the lawsuit: “There is also no objective basis for President Trump’s Emergency Declaration. By the President’s own admission, an emergency declaration is not necessary. The federal government’s own data prove there is no national emergency at the southern border that warrants construction of a wall. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) data show that unlawful entries are near 45-year lows. The State Department recognizes there is a lack of credible evidence that terrorists are using the southern border to enter the United States. Federal data confirm that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than are native-born Americans. CBP data demonstrate that dangerous drugs are much more likely to be smuggled through, not between, official ports of entry — rendering a border wall ineffectual at preventing their entry into this country,” according to the suit.”
- Not the only ones: Other lawsuits already filed include a Public Citizen suit “on Behalf of Affected Texas Landowners, Environmental Group;” a suit from the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “If he gets his way, it’ll be a disaster for communities and wildlife along the border, including some of our country’s most endangered species,” according to Brian Segee, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.
- Up next: The ACLU is expected to file its lawsuit this week. “What Trump is doing is patently illegal, because there is no emergency,” Cecillia Wang, the deputy director of the ACLU, writes. “He even admitted it himself during his news conference today: 'I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.'”
There are a number of conditions working in Trump's favor, however, that could make Hill opposition and the litany of legal measures only a temporary roadblock. That's because there's pretty broad criteria for what constitutes an emergency under existing law:
1. Congress won't likely overrule a presidential veto, report the Times's Carl Hulse and Glenn Thrush. House Democrats have already said they plan to spearhead a resolution of disapproval on Trump's move, which will likely pass that chamber. Under law, the Senate is bound to take up that measure, and could even pass it. But Trump could then veto it, and overriding that would take an unlikely two-thirds majority in both chambers.
- As Hulse and Thrush put it: " . . . the unrest seemed well short of the sort of partywide revolt necessary to override a veto by Mr. Trump of any legislative attempt to prevent his declaration of an emergency, leaving a legal challenge as the only recourse.”
- “I would not vote for disapproval,” said Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), according to the Times. “He’s got the power to defend the country, to defend the borders, to protect the people as commander in chief. I believe the courts would uphold him on this.”
2. In the courts, Trump might lose in the 9th Circuit. But he could win on the Supreme Court — to which he has appointed two members.
- The justices have already shown a "willingness to defer to Trump on claims of national security,” the Brennan Center's Elizabeth Goitein writes in The Post. "When he invoked broad immigration powers to ban travel from majority-Muslim countries after revising the ban twice to deal with objections from lower courts, five Supreme Court justices were willing to credit paper-thin national security justifications and ignore obvious signs of an unconstitutional motive."
- The key quote: “There is a risk that the Supreme Court or other courts could take a similar approach here — and that they could choose to read the emergency powers themselves quite broadly.”
- Trump has figured this out: “We will possibly get a bad ruling, and then we'll get another bad ruling, and then we'll end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we'll get a fair shake," Trump said Friday during a news conference in the Rose Garden. “Look I expect to be sued. and we'll win in the Supreme Court.”
3. Win-Win?: If lawmakers override Trump's veto or the courts rule against him, some strategists hypothesize the president will emerge unscathed from the situation with a political boost as he can now tell his backers he was willing to take on the courts and Congress.
*None of these scenarios negates the possibility of serious backlash among voters: outside of the president's wall-loving base: Trump's “willingness to fabricate a national crisis and subvert constitutional checks and balances to avoid legislative defeat places him closer to Ferdinand Marcos than to Ronald Reagan,” political scientists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt argue. “How would a president who is willing to fabricate a national emergency over a simple legislative impasse behave during a real security crisis?," they ask.
- Noteworthy: A Fox News poll released last week found a majority of Americans, 56 percent, are "opposed to the president declaring a national emergency as a way to construct the wall without congressional approval."
- But: “Sixty-three percent of voters consider the situation at the southern border an emergency OR major problem. The same number, 63 percent, feel that way about climate change. Opioid addiction dwarfs that: 87 percent consider it an emergency or major problem,” per the poll.
In cities like Chicago, Newark, Philadelphia, and Austin people are marching in protest of Trump's national emergency declaration pic.twitter.com/zgE88iL0e8— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) February 19, 2019
TRUMP'S TWITTER FEED: Still fuming over former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe's new book, Trump's Presidents' Day tweet storm culminated with a quote from Fox News's Sean Hannity accusing McCabe of "plotting a coup (government overthrow) when he was serving in the FBI, before he was fired for lying and leaking."
- Trump’s allegations refer to McCabe’s claims that he “discussed ‘counting votes’ among Cabinet members to see who would consider invoking the 25th Amendment, which removes a president from power in the event he is ‘unable to discharge’ his duties,” according to my colleagues Reis Thebault and Meagan Flynn.
- Trump also accused Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein of engaging in “illegal and treasonous” activities with McCabe earlier in the day. CNN’s Laura Jarrett broke the news last night that Rosenstein will be stepping down from his position mid March. Newly confirmed Attorney General Bill Barr has selected Jeffrey Rosen, the deputy transportation secretary, as his deputy.
Fact-check: As special assistant to both, this is false. 🤷🏻♂️ https://t.co/AEtijKYHDP— Josh Campbell (@joshscampbell) February 19, 2019
Outside the Beltway
New Hampshire gon' New Hampshire: In typical “First in the Nation” fashion, voters showed up over the weekend to size up some of the 2020 Democrats in town. Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard, and Pete Buttigieg all visited the state over President's Day weekend.
Klobuchar: The Minnesota senator assumed a lane of her own on Monday night during a CNN town hall, looking to carve out space as a pragmatist among the many progressive contenders. Responding to questions about Medicare-for-all and the Green New Deal, Klobuchar praised the efforts for their aspirational vision -- but said her focus was on more immediate legislative fixes. She also said she was not in favor of "free four-year college for all."
- “She came armed with a sense of humor and a willingness to say no,” CNN's Jeff Zeleny writes. “The question, of course, is how big of an appetite exists for that in a party steadily shifting to the left.”
Cory Booker: During his inaugural swing through the state as a presidential candidate, the New Jersey senator emphasized "empathy and 'a sense of common purpose,'" according to the Boston Globe's Laura Crimaldi. A Palestinian-American voter asked Booker to explain his support for Israel and his opposition to the boycott, divest, and sanction movement.
- “I am against BDS, but I am for your rights to protest, your free speech rights,” Booker told the crowd. “Again, this is why I have voted the way I have voted. I am against BDS because I am deeply concerned that we have roots in the BDS movement that do not have any sense for proportionality about other countries. Where is the Chinese BDS movement because of what they’re doing to the Uighurs and to other folks? But you do not hear that.”
Kamala Harris: The California senator visited New Hampshire for the first time ever (!) on Monday where she told voters in Portsmouth she intends "to spend time here.. I intend to do very well in New Hampshire." During a gaggle with reporters, Harris said that unlike her Vermont colleague in the Senate, she did not identify as a “Democratic socialist.”
- “I believe that what voters do want is they want to know that whoever is going to lead understands that in America today not everyone has an equal opportuntioy and access to a path to success and that has been building up over decades and we've got to correct course,” Harris added.
- Harris also told a votershe favored renaming Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day, according to the Times's Katharine Seelye.
Big line in the absolutely freezing snow for @KamalaHarris town hall in Portsmouth, NH. For some it’s not even their first event today: Talked to a couple who saw Cory Booker this AM. pic.twitter.com/ObseWoAOQe— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) February 18, 2019
Separately, Bernie Sanders: WMUR's John DiStaso reports Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is slated to throw his hat into the presidential ring via an email to supporters today.
- “A key Sanders supporter told WMUR that one of Sanders’ closest advisers informed the supporter that the announcement will be made in an email,” according to DiStaso. “It was not made clear to the supporter whether it will be an outright announcement of a candidacy or an announcement of an exploratory committee.”
- Politco's Holly Otterbein reported over the weekend that Sanders has recorded a campaign video in which he announces his 2020 run.
- Sanders will also appear on CBS “This Morning” for a “revealing” interview with John Dickerson.
And don't forget Elizabeth Warren: New Hampshire's neighboring lawmaker will “unveil a major new initiative on Tuesday designed to make sure every family can afford high-quality child care, according to several people who have heard about the proposal or seen material describing it in the past week,” according to the HuffPost's Jonathan Cohn.
- The proposal “seeks to make access to child care universal, the sources told HuffPost, by offering federal funds to providers that offer care at their facilities on a sliding income scale.”
- It would make "child care free for families with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty level, or less than $51,500 for a family of four, according to a person familiar with the plan. Other families would pay up to 7 percent of income, depending on how much they earn," per Bloomberg's Sahil Kapur.
- “Warren’s plan would cost taxpayers $70 billion per year, according to an analysis by Moody’s Analytics economists Mark Zandi and Sophia Koropeckyj. It would be paid for with some of the revenue from an annual wealth tax Warren has proposed on assets above $50 million, the person said,” Kapur reports.
WELL, THAT WAS AWKWARD: Mutual contempt over a badly damaged transatlantic relationship was on display between the U.S. and Europe at the Munich Security Conference over the weekend, report my colleagues Griff Witte and Michael Birnbaum.
Much of Vice President Pence's speech that criticized Germany, France and Britain for continuing to do business with Iran, despite U.S. sanctions, was greeted with silence (see the video above). And while former Vice President Biden and his robust expressions of support for NATO were warmly greeted, European officials maintained that "aggressive global leadership won't be so easy to restore."
- Key: "Even if Democrats beat Trump when he vies for reelection next year, U.S. allies say the damage will be difficult to reverse. They point to long-term trends in the United States — especially a growing skepticism toward global engagement — that suggest key elements of Trumpism will live on, regardless of how long he serves or who succeeds him,”
- “We fool ourselves if we think Trump is just an aberration,” said a senior German official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly. “Trump is a symptom more than a cause.”
- Also notable: The congressional delegation to Munich did not include any 2020 Democrats."Some of the declared candidates, including [Warren], have been highly critical of trade agreements and of U.S. military interventions overseas. Others are facing populist pressure on the left to move in that direction. Attendance at Munich — dominated by a transatlantic foreign policy establishment that views free trade and robust militaries as articles of faith — would be of little help,” my colleagues report.
In the Media
What we’ve got our eye on: Trump Receives Report on U.S. Security Threat of Car Imports. By Bloomberg’s Andrew Mayeda and Jenny Leonard.
WTF: Alabama newspaper editor calls for Klan return to 'clean out D.C.' By The Montgomery Advertiser's Melissa Brown.
Very fun graphic alert: All the President's Meals. By Foreign Policy's C.K. Hickey.
ICMYI: Japan’s Abe won’t confirm Trump Nobel Prize nomination, but media reports say he made it. By The Post’s Simon Denyer and Akiko Kashiwagi.
‘Orchidelirium’: Roses Are Red, Orchids Are Addictive. By the Wall Streeet Journal’s Daniela Hernandez.
Climate panic pile on: Time to Panic. by David Wallace-Wells for the New York Times.
Sen. Marco Rubio made a surprise visit to a Colombian town along the Venezuelan border, sending a message to the Venezuelan military, which has stood by embattled president Nicolas Maduro and blocked aid from entering the country. https://t.co/kNLqpQ0XhZ pic.twitter.com/CuKnXI55Hm— ABC News (@ABC) February 19, 2019