The diversion of military funds to pay for President Trump’s border wall obsession — which is taking money away from more than 100 military projects around the country, just as a junkie’s habit might take money from the grocery kitty — provides an opening to reconsider the extraordinary depths to which Mitch McConnell has sunk to enable Trump’s corruption.
The Senate majority leader has not only assisted and protected Trump in doing great damage to our democracy, for naked partisan purposes, though that’s a major stain. But McConnell also has in effect now prioritized the mission of enabling and defending Trump’s corruption over the interests of his own state and its constituents.
One project that will lose funding as a result of Trump’s wall — which is now being paid for out of funds diverted as part of the national emergency that Trump declared on fabricated grounds — is on the Kentucky-Tennessee border.
That project is a planned middle school at the Fort Campbell army base. The Pentagon has diverted $62.6 million in money slotted for construction of that school, as part of the $3.6 billion that has been shifted toward Trump’s wall.
The New York Times has a remarkable new report on the impact this will have on the military families who have eagerly awaited the school’s construction. It means more than 500 students will continue to “cram themselves in” at another school that’s already very tight on space. That entails messy arrangements that will make it harder for students to follow lessons.
The school is part of the system developed to enable children of military families in the South to attend desegregated schools. One retired officer tells the Times that Trump’s decision to “deny new school construction” to build “this artifice called a southern wall” is “crazy.”
McConnell himself had previously boasted of funding he had secured for Fort Campbell families. Yet subsequently, McConnell voted to uphold Trump’s national emergency, which will now take funding away.
So how does a McConnell spokesman justify this? By saying: “We would not be in this situation if Democrats were serious about protecting our homeland and worked with us to provide the funding needed to secure our borders during the appropriations process.”
That’s a stunning statement, once you unpack it. Democrats are to blame for the emergency taking funding away from people, because Trump responded to their refusal to fund his wall by going around Congress!
To be as clear as possible, an elected member of that body is claiming other lawmakers in that body are at fault for Trump’s corrupt circumventing of them, because they represented their own constituents’ will, rather than give Trump what he demanded, to fund something Trump himself has privately admitted is all about giving his supporters something to chant about before reelection.
What’s more, McConnell’s office — by preposterously pretending that Trump’s emergency was necessary to secure the border — is in effect declaring that using money for Trump’s wall at the cost of funding for this middle school on his home state’s border was the correct prioritization of funds.
This all becomes an even more glaring example of how McConnell enables Trump’s corruption when you review McConnell’s role in this whole affair.
Revisiting McConnell’s role
Trump declared the emergency in February, justifying it with multiple lies about drugs and the border, because Congress refused to give him the wall. The Senate voted overwhelmingly not to fund Trump’s wall at his demanded levels. Trump, then, circumvented the will of the body that McConnell himself presides over.
McConnell initially opposed the declaration. But he largely did so because the politics of it were inconvenient. McConnell privately warned Trump not to go forward, saying it would divide Republicans.
McConnell also warned Trump that House Democrats would pass a resolution overturning the emergency. McConnell worried this would jam Senate Republicans into voting on the resolution — and that it would pass, forcing Trump to veto it, forcing Republicans into the awkward position of voting on whether to override Trump’s veto.
McConnell, then, opposed the emergency mainly because it would force his members to take tough votes. He also did express concerns about the precedent the emergency would set. But even if that is so, what these things really mean is that McConnell didn’t actually think the declaration of a national emergency was necessary or justified.
Which shows that McConnell’s current claim that it was necessary to secure the border — his way of spinning away the loss of school funding — is utter nonsense.
And yet, when both chambers of Congress did pass the resolution overturning the emergency, McConnell voted with Trump. (The emergency survived after the House failed to override Trump’s veto of that resolution.)
Thus, in the end, McConnell supported Trump’s emergency, which circumvented the will of the body he serves in, was not necessary by McConnell’s own lights, and is now shifting funds away from a new school on his own state’s border.
Trump’s faithful enabler
Let’s not forget that this is the same Mitch McConnell who refused to show a united, public bipartisan front against Russian sabotage of our 2016 election, and has refused to allow multiple bills securing our next election against more Russian sabotage — which Trump has openly invited — from coming to the floor.
McConnell now claims he’s fighting to get the funding for the school, anyway. And he might succeed at that. But regardless, this is not a certainty, and McConnell’s explicit public position is now that funding the wall first — putting that school funding at risk — was the right thing to do.
Yet somehow, McConnell is blaming Democrats for this result, thus spinning away and continuing to enable Trump’s profoundly corrupt and destructive role in all of it.