The Slatest

Watch Miller Struggle as Fox’s Wallace Demands Example on Precedent for Emergency Declaration

President Donald Trump speaks as senior adviser Stephen Miller (C) listens during a round-table discussion on border security and safe communities at the White House on January 11, 2019 in Washington, D.C.
President Donald Trump speaks as senior adviser Stephen Miller (C) listens during a round-table discussion on border security and safe communities at the White House on January 11, 2019 in Washington, D.C.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

If White House senior adviser Stephen Miller was hoping for a friendly interview on Fox News Sunday this week he was surely disappointed. As Miller did his best to defend President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and his declaration of a national emergency, anchor Chris Wallace repeatedly pressed him on not just basic facts behind the decision but also the constitutionality of the president’s move. First, Wallace hit Miller with numerous facts that contradict the president’s justification for a national emergency.

“The president talks about an invasion, he used that word multiple times on Friday, an invasion on the southern border,” Wallace said. “But let’s look at the facts, I want to put them up on the screen.” The anchor then went on to note how the facts suggest fewer people are crossing the border now than two decades ago and the government’s own data shows that most of the undocumented immigrants overstayed their visas rather than crossed the border illegally. “Where is the emergency, the national emergency to build a wall?” Wallace asked. Miller went on to note that “You don’t know what you don’t know, and you don’t catch what you don’t catch,” suggesting that there were a lot more people and drugs flowing over the border than what official numbers would suggest.

Wallace then went on to repeatedly press Miller for an example of another commander in chief who has done what Trump did and issue an emergency declaration to get money that was denied to him through Congress. At first Wallace wondered whether the whole concept of a national emergency wasn’t unconstitutional, to which Miller obviously said no and cited the National Emergencies Act. Wallace said that was hardly a satisfactory response. “But let’s talk about national emergency, national emergencies have been declared 59 times since 1976 when the law was passed, the National Emergencies Act,” Wallace said. “Can you point to a single instance, even one, where the president asked Congress for money, Congress refused to give him that money, and the president then invoked national emergency powers to get the money?”

Miller repeatedly ducked the question despite Wallace’s insistence. At one point, the president’s senior adviser suggested the whole point was moot anyway because this referred to “the use of military construction funds.” Wallace seized on that point:  “If you want to talk about military constructions, do you know how many times military construction has been invoked as a National emergency? Twice. Twice. Once by George H.W. Bush during the middle of the Gulf War, and the second time by George W. Bush right after 9/11. This is hardly comparable to either of those.”

Miller tried to get away from that question by flipping it on Wallace: “Can you name one foreign threat in the world today outside this country’s borders that currently kills more Americans than the threats crossing our southern border?” Wallace made clear he wasn’t going to be distracted. “You know, the joy of this is I get to ask you questions, you don’t get to ask me,” Wallace said, and added “Answer my question. Can you name one case where a president has asked Congress for money, Congress has refused, and the president has then invoked national powers to get the money anyway?” Miller continued to dodge the question until Wallace finally concluded: “So the answer is no, there hasn’t been a single case like this.”