It is telling and entirely predictable that the first time President Trump is seriously checked by another branch of government he threatens to declare a national emergency and essentially rule by decree. As history teachers us, while authoritarianism usually sells itself on efficiency and power, it is far more often paired with failure and incompetence.
The danger of this kind of blatantly illegal resort of ‘national emergency’ powers speaks for itself. But I can see a reason why various players, maybe including Trump himself, might see this as a way out of the standoff.
President Trump could declare his emergency and say he’s building his wall. This lets Senate Republicans off the hook and allows them to pass budget bills to reopen the federal government. But the emergency declaration and actions taken under it would certainly spur immediate lawsuits. And I think there’s a good chance they’d succeed, at least succeed in getting into court.
So the government gets to open and Trump gets a face-saving way out of the standoff. He gets checked by the courts. But that just gives him another grievance and claim of unfairness, something he’s been happy to have and exploit in all the other immigration related actions he’s been stymied on.
Don’t get me wrong. This would still be a disaster for the country. And perhaps he wouldn’t get checked. These emergency provisions Congress created give the President a lot of power. But cynical members of the President’s party seem likely to see this as a painless (for them) way out of the impasse.