U.S. President Donald Trump has promised to make a ‘major announcement’ on Saturday afternoon. This comes as the partial government shutdown nears the one-month mark.
Without going into much detail, Trump said the focus of the announcement would be on the partial government shutdown and the ‘Humanitarian Crisis on our Southern Border’:
This has led to speculation on what exactly Trump intends to announce from the White House’s Diplomatic Room. Faced with an obstinate Democrat-controlled House of Representatives which has refused to offer the $5 billion-plus that he is seeking for a wall on the Southern border, Trump last week suggested that he could declare a national emergency. This would allow the reallocation of funds assigned to the Department of Defense to the building of the wall:
I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency. Haven’t done it yet. I may do it. If this doesn’t work out, probably I will do it. I would almost say definitely. We have plenty of funds if there’s a national emergency.
If Trump resorts to getting funding from the Pentagon and thereby ending the shutdown, markets are likely to rally when they reopen. This is especially so in light of the fact that the partial government shutdown has started impacting economic growth. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon has already predicted that U.S. economic growth could fall to zero if the shutdown continues.
Declaring a national emergency would, however, be heavily challenged in the courts. But even if the process of building a wall is stalled by the courts, the move would allow Trump to possibly come out unscathed politically. This is because he can always shift the blame to the judicial system.
When asked whether the president was planning to declare a national emergency, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, refused to directly address the question. Instead, she only said that the president was committed to border security, according to Politico:
I’m not going to get ahead of the president, but I can assure you that he’s going to continue fighting for border security. He’s going to continue looking for the solution to end the humanitarian and national security crisis at the border.
If Trump goes ahead to invoke the National Emergencies Act, it will not come as a surprise to those who closely watch his Twitter feed. Just this week, Trump returned to a tactic he used during the Midterms – a caravan invasion from Central America.
During the Midterms, a caravan originating from Central America became a major theme in political rallies and messaging aimed at drumming support for Republican candidates. Whether or not it worked is debatable as Republicans lost the House while growing their Senate majority.
Trump’s ‘major announcement’ could also be an offer to the Democrats meant to end the shutdown. It is, however, difficult to see what kind of concession Trump would give to the Democrats without creating political problems for himself.
Some conservative commentators have cautioned him that if he gives up on his signature issue, his political base will abandon him. This week conservative pundit Ann Coulter warned Trump that failure to build the wall would be career suicide, per MarketWatch:
It is self-preservation, because he is dead in the water if he does not build that wall. Dead, dead, dead.
Previously, Trump has hinted that he could use Dreamers or DACA recipients as a bargaining chip. That would still be politically problematic. A bipartisan initiative to give Dreamers legal status last year was not greeted enthusiastically by his base.
Whatever the case, Trump will be competing with sports channels for audiences this Saturday.