Donald Trump is huffing and puffing about a national emergency related to imaginary terrorists on the southern border, and may declare such a state tonight on prime time TV. In doing so, he would trigger a host of extraordinary presidential powers and endanger at least one of his branded golf clubs, the Trump Organization and his two sons managing the enterprise.
The suspected call to arms is stupid and unnecessary on many levels. At the least, there is no threat to national security and there is no flood of bloodthirsty terrorists in the bands of asylum-seekers. At the simplest level, Congress, particularly Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, can quickly restore calm by funding the government (not the vanity wall).
However, should Trump insist on this megalomanic pursuit of a horizontal phallus, concrete or steel or invisible, and invoke a national emergency, he will receive his just dessert.
Declaring a national state of emergency is usually reserved for events of consequence, such as the attack on 9-11, and the scale of distress gives the White House a range of uncommon authority.
Elizabeth Goitein broke down these executive powers in her recent article in The Atlantic, “What the president could do if he declares a state of emergency.” Among the wave of effects: a president can break laws, freeze bank accounts, suspend legal rights and though never tested, throw the internet kill switch. Yet there is one particular possibility that would directly affect the Trump Organization in a substantially negative way.
Here is Goitein:
He could determine that any American inside the U.S. who offers material support to the asylum seekers—or, for that matter, to undocumented immigrants inside the United States—poses “an unusual and extraordinary threat” to national security, and authorize the Treasury Department to take action against them.
This “action” falls under the purview of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEP) and is usually reserved for foreign countries. Economic sanctions are the usual result. Goitein adds that other acts can include “freezing assets and blocking financial transactions in which any foreign nation or foreign national has an interest.”
Now, the IEEP provision might apply to Americans who leave gallons of water for migrants crossing the border illegally or to immigration attorneys offering pro bono services to undocumented migrants. Heck, Donald Trump might want to sanction Beto O’Rourke for the work he does for the undocumented folks in El Paso.
This provision could just as easily apply to Eric and Donald Trump, Jr. who manage the Trump Organization, owner of a string of golf clubs.
The American public now knows that Victorina Morales, Sandra Diaz and an untold number of undocumented migrants have worked or are working at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., thanks to falsified ID documents arranged by Bedminster staff. This revelation came out in a report by the NY Times a month ago.
Sandra Diaz, 46, a native of Costa Rica who is now a legal resident of the United States, said she, too, was undocumented when she worked at Bedminster between 2010 and 2013. The two women said they worked for years as part of a group of housekeeping, maintenance and landscaping employees at the golf club that included a number of undocumented workers, though they could not say precisely how many.
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
If Donald Trump declares a state of emergency, and if he invokes the IEEP power of sanction against individuals and entities offering “material support” to undocumented migrants, then Eric Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., the Trump Organization and all business entities under its umbrella must be subject to sanctions. That means bank accounts, here and abroad, will be frozen and no person, business or state allowed to do business with these sanctioned entities without penalty. As the owner of the Trump Organization, Donald would see his revenues disappear before his eyes. He wouldn’t have enough to mow his greens, entertain his Saud and Russian friends or pay his mountain of legal bills. His brand would plummet in value as his income shriveled and his sons faced bankruptcy. None of his Russian friends could launder their dirty money in his Russian Riviera holdings. They would be very upset.
Just how stupid is Donald J. Trump? We will soon find out.