While a presidential address is usually reserved for moments of great change or announcements of war, President Trump’s first prime time address and the subsequent response by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer turned out to be nothing more than an extension of the partisan debates that Republicans and Democrats have been having—and that have been heavily reported in the news— for months.
However, the length of the government shutdown and Trump’s suggestion on Jan. 4 that he may declare a national emergency to build the wall has led many, including Daily Show host Trevor Noah, to break down what a state of emergency would mean for America.
“Trump has claimed that as president, he can declare illegal immigration as a national emergency, and then he wouldn’t need congressional approval to build the wall. He could just do it himself.”
Noah also noted that national emergencies are fairly common, reminding viewers that “President Carter declared a national emergency during the Iranian hostage crisis in order to put sanctions on Iran. President Obama declared a state of emergency during swine flu to help hospitals respond more effectively. President Bush declared an emergency when Friends went off the air.” (Note: one of these is not true.)
“Presidents declare national emergencies all the time. What they don’t do is declare an emergency just to win a policy fight with Congress. So the question we need to answer is, is Trump even allowed to do this?”
Yes, he can, and the declaration itself would give the President the level of power seemingly reserved for authoritarian regimes. A clip Noah included from PBS NewsHour, explained that under a state of emergency, Trump has the power to freeze the bank accounts of American citizens, shut down communications facilities, and deploy the military domestically.
“It’s one thing to freeze our bank accounts or send troops to our houses, but shutting down communications? That means Trump could turn off the internet? Like Instagram? How am I supposed to get sponsorships now?”
Noah’s solution? Give Trump a wall before he figures out the extent of his power.
“If I’m the Democrats, I’d give Trump the wall before he finds out what he can really do.” While Noah admitted that sounds crazy, the Daily Show continued, “Right now, he’s like the baby from The Incredibles, he only knows he can float. We do not want him finding out he can shoot lasers from his eyes.”