Washington Post Editorial Board Slams Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell: Declaring a National Emergency is 'an affront to the democratic process'

Mitch McConell and Donald Trump
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, third from right, speaks to members of the media after the weekly Republican Senate policy luncheon on January 9. President Donald Trump met with GOP lawmakers to shore up their resolve and support for his proposed border wall as the partial federal government shutdown dragged into its third week. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

It is expected that President Donald Trump will declare the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border a national emergency on Friday in an effort to move forward in obtaining the money needed to construct his long-promised border wall.

The announcement of Trump's intentions came from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who interrupted Senator Chuck Grassley on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon to deliver the news.

With Trump's announcement pending, The Washington Post's editorial board published a rebuke of McConnell's actions and the president's move to "cannibalize" money approved for other projects to obtain the wall.

"It seems logical that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, having approved Mr. Trump's emergency, would acquiesce in future such emergency declarations. By becoming a rubber stamp for Mr. Trump, Mr. McConnell has set a precedent: that he is prepared to accept any president who would treat the will of Congress, and the Constitution, with cavalier contempt," the board wrote.

"For make no mistake, that is precisely what Mr. Trump will have done if he goes ahead with his plan. His fulminations about a border wall having failed to convince the legislative branch, which forged a deal that yielded less than a quarter of the funds the president demanded, he has decided by his planned emergency declaration simply to render the legislative branch irrelevant. That's a tried-and-true technique for autocrats the world over; it's not what the framers had in mind when they granted Congress the power of the purse."

The editorial board also described how Trump's declaration could set a precedent for future presidents, echoing a warning that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi gave to reporters during her weekly press conference.

"Imagine indeed if, two years from now, a President Booker, Harris, Warren or Bennet, seizing on the Parkland massacre's anniversary, invoked emergency powers to halt the killing of innocents—by banning the sale of semiautomatic weapons, imposing uniform background checks for gun purchases or levying a stiff federal surtax on the sale of gun parts and ammunition," the editorial board wrote. "If an emergency can be manufactured over border security when illegal border crossings are near a 20-year low, as measured by Border Patrol arrests, then it's a snap to make the case for an emergency over gun deaths, which are near a 20-year high."

According to The New York Times, Trump's plan to divert money hasn't been publicly revealed, but one plan circulated this week included rerouting $2.5 billion in counternarcotics funds to the Army Corps of Engineers. After that, the Trump administration would give existing federal land at the border to the Department of Defense and allow the Army Corps to build a barrier on that land.

While law experts have stated that Trump can legally declare a national emergency to construct the wall, several members of Congress, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló and groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union have already stated that an announcement from the president would result in lawsuits.

The Post's editorial board concluded by calling the national emergency announcement "an affront to the democratic process."

"In telegraphing Mr. Trump's intent, White House aides have said he will identify other funding sources and cannibalize them for the border wall—'we'll go off and find the money someplace else, legally,' as Mr. Mulvaney said last weekend. It remains to be seen whether diverting billions of dollars is legal—a court fight is likely—but there is no doubt that it is an affront to the democratic process.

"By his declaration, Mr. Trump will inaugurate a new, imperial phase of his presidency. Mr. McConnell, who had previously warned him against such an action, will show he has perfected a trick: roll over and play dead."