Feb 15, 2019

Why Trump is declaring an emergency

President Trump speaks in El Paso, N.M. on Monday. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

President Trump liked the idea of declaring a national emergency because it's the maximalist, most dramatic option.

Between the lines: Trump never gravitates towards complexity. And the reprogramming of funds to allow more wall spending, without declaring an emergency, would have been complicated to explain to voters.

  • The president is expected to declare a national emergency today when he appears in the Rose Garden at 10 a.m. for remarks on "the national security and humanitarian crisis on our southern border."

Examples of Trump's maximalist impulse include:

  • Building a "Great Wall" vs. the mix of security solutions recommended by border experts.
  • Repeated threats to kill all of NAFTA.
  • Calls for full, rather than gradual, withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan.

Months in the making: Last summer, Trump told Mick Mulvaney — then White House budget director, now chief of staff — to find him money to pay for the wall without going to Congress.

  • The Office of Management and Budget has been sifting through obscure piles of money ever since, and was well-prepared for the emergency declaration.

The reason some staff pushed back against the emergency was that they knew it would result in immediate court action (it obviously still will), and because they knew the backlash it would spur on Capitol Hill.

  • Conservative lawyers close to the White House worried about the precedent it would set.

Be smart: Trump makes big decisions substantially through the lens of: "What can I sell to my people?"

  • Trump consistently thinks in terms of public relations: When people ask him what he achieved during the shutdown, he says he got the nation to focus on the border — and the media to talk about nothing but the border for a month.

Go deeper

Biden says he's starting VP search this month

Joe Biden. Photo: Scott Olson / Staff

Joe Biden said he's spoken to Sen. Bernie Sanders and former President Barack Obama about selecting a running mate — and that he wants to build "a bench of younger, really qualified people" who can lead the nation over the course of the next four presidential cycles.

Driving the news: Biden spoke about the state of the 2020 race during a virtual fundraiser on Friday night that was opened to pooled coverage.

Trump ousting intelligence community inspector general

Michael Atkinson, inspector general of the intelligence community. Photo: Bill Clark / Getty Images

President Trump notified key lawmakers on Friday that he’s firing Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community's inspector general, who first alerted Congress last September of an "urgent" complaint from an official involving Trump's correspondence with the Ukrainian president.

Why it matters: The move, to take effect in 30 days, comes amid a broader initiative to purge the administration of officials seen as disloyal to the president.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Axios Visuals

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,097,909 — Total deaths: 59,131 — Total recoveries: 226,106Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 277,828 — Total deaths: 7,406 — Total recoveries: 9,772Map.
  3. Public health latest: The CDC is recommending Americans wear face coverings in public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The federal government will cover the costs of COVID-19 treatment for the uninsured, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.
  4. 2020 latest: "I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting," President Trump said of the 2020 election, as more states hold primary elections by mail. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said Friday that every county in the state opted to expand mail-in voting for the state's June 2 primary.
  5. Business updates: America's small business bailout is off to a bad start. The DOT is urging airlines to refund passengers due to canceled or rescheduled flights, but won't take action against airlines that provide vouchers or credits.
  6. Oil latest: The amount of gas American drivers are consuming dropped to levels not seen in more than 25 years, government data shows. Trump is calling on the Energy Department to find more places to store oil.
  7. Tech updates: Twitter will allow ads containing references to the coronavirus under certain use cases.
  8. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Senators call for independent investigation into firing of Navy captain.
  9. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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