Trump says he could invoke emergency powers to build wall without Congress
Hunter Walker White House Correspondent,Yahoo News•President Trump speaks to reporters in the Rose Garden on Friday as Vice President Mike Pence looks on. (Photo: Jim Young/Reuters)WASHINGTON — President Trump floated the possibility he could declare a “national emergency” in order to build a wall on the southern border during a freewheeling press conference at the White House on Friday.“I can do it if I want. … We can call a national emergency because of the security of our country, absolutely,” Trump said, adding, “We can do it. I haven’t done it. I may do it. I may do it. But we could call a national emergency and build it very quickly.”Trump’s comments confirmed an earlier report from ABC that he has considered making an emergency declaration.The president’s press conference was held in the Rose Garden and followed a meeting with congressional leaders from both parties about the government shutdown, which began on Dec. 22. The shutdown was sparked by Trump’s demand for over $5 billion for a border wall. Democrats have refused to provide the funding and argued that a wall would be ineffective.Though he suggested he could build the wall without authorization from Congress under emergency powers, Trump said he is still trying to make a deal with the Democrats.“If we can do it through a negotiated process, we’re giving that a shot,” the president said.In response to a question asking if he meant that as a threat, Trump said raising an emergency declaration shouldn’t be taken by Democrats as intimidation.“I’d never threaten anybody, but I am allowed to do that, yes,” Trump said.A presidential declaration of a national emergency to construct a border wall would likely face legal challenges. Trump and other administration officials have argued there is a crisis on the border and made dubious claims that terrorists have been apprehended there. At his press conference, Trump was joined by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who repeated his claim that terrorists have been caught at the border, although without providing conclusive details.Prior to Trump’s press conference, newly minted Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer made brief remarks in front of the West Wing about their meeting with Trump. Pelosi characterized it as a “lengthy and sometimes contentious conversation.” Schumer said Trump expressed willingness to keep the government “closed for a very long period of time, months or even years.”In the Rose Garden, Trump said Schumer’s report was accurate, but that he had set up working groups to negotiate throughout the coming weekend and expressed optimism a deal could be reached as early as next week.The president took questions for over a half hour at the press conference. Among many other things, he also addressed controversial comments made by a freshman congresswoman who called for his impeachment, and recent dramatic declines in the stock markets tied to the ongoing trade tensions with China. Trump also said he discussed potentially making a deal to revive the DACA protections for young immigrants as part of an agreement to end the shutdown, but he reiterated his view that this could not be done until the legal challenges to his attempts to end that program were resolved. And Trump addressed the federal workers who are missing paychecks due to the shutdown. He said he is confident they are supportive of his position since “a lot of them wantTrump also discussed some of the details of his vision for a wall. He said his administration is already using eminent domain to secure needed territory along the border and said the government has made “generous” offers to people whose land is being taken. Trump said this process would not slow down wall construction.“It’s not going to hold it up because, under the military version of eminent domain and under actually homeland security we can do it before we even start. … We have already purchased a lot of it,” Trump said.Whatever happens, the finished product will not match Trump’s signature campaign promise, which was a concrete border wall that would be paid for by Mexico.Trump has recently modified his rhetoric and said he is open to steel slats or another type of barrier. At his press conference, Trump insisted this would only be a stronger version of the wall than what he promised.“Steel is stronger than concrete. If I build this wall, or fence, or anything the Democrats need to call it … if I build a steel wall rather than a concrete wall, it will actually be stronger than concrete,” Trump said.Trump has recently claimed Mexico would pay for the wall through his new USMCA trade pact. Yahoo News asked Trump to describe the “specific mechanism” in that agreement that would lead to Mexico paying for the wall. Trump initially did not directly answer the question and instead declared, “You’re going to be seeing it very soon.”The president went on to suggest the country “will be making billions and billions of dollars a year in more money” through his trade deal as businesses return to the U.S. and that this would be “paying for the wall many, many times over.”However, the USMCA has yet to be approved by Congress. Even if the pact is approved and does indeed lead to increased tax revenue, that money could not be used for a border wall without congressional approval.Nevertheless, Trump said these funds would be coming “in a period of a year, two years and three years.”“Absolutely Mexico is paying for the wall,”
By Amanda Becker and Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats wasted no time flexing their new power in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday as they maneuvered to pass legislation backed by new Speaker Nancy Pelosi that would end a 13-day partial government shutdown while ignoring President Donald Trump’s demand for $5 billion for a border wall.
Thursday marked the first day of divided government in Washington since Trump took office in January 2017, as Democrats took control in the House from his fellow Republicans, who remain in charge of the Senate.
The 2019-2020 Congress convened with roughly a quarter of the federal government closed, affecting 800,000 employees, in a shutdown triggered by Trump’s demand last month for the money for a U.S.-Mexican border wall – opposed by Democrats – as part of any legislation funding government agencies.
The House formally picked veteran Democratic lawmaker Pelosi as its speaker, elevating the liberal from San Francisco for her second stint in one of Washington’s most powerful jobs. She is the only woman ever to serve as speaker and will preside over the most diverse U.S. House in history, including a record number of women and Latinos.
The two-part Democratic package includes a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security at current levels through Feb. 8, providing $1.3 billion for border fencing and $300 million for other border security items including technology and cameras.
The second part would fund the other federal agencies that are now unfunded including the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, Commerce and Justice, through Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year.
The White House on Thursday issued a veto threat against both parts of the Democratic legislation.
But that did not deter House Democrats.
In their first legislative victory since taking power earlier in the day, the two bills to reopen the government cleared an important procedural hurdle as the House approved the rules for debating the two measures. That cleared the way for a vote expected later in the evening on passage.
As speaker, Pelosi now is situated to lead Democratic opposition to Trump’s agenda and carry out investigations of his administration following two years during which congressional Republicans largely acquiesced to the president.
Trump later on Thursday made an unannounced appearance in the White House briefing room to make the case for the border wall, accompanied by members of a union that represents border patrol agents that endorsed him for president in 2016. He congratulated Pelosi on her selection as speaker and said: „Hopefully we’re going to work together.”
„The wall – you can call it a barrier, you can call it whatever you want – but essentially we need protection in our country,” Trump told reporters, without taking questions.
‘THE WRONG FOOT’
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled that the Democratic legislation had no future in the Senate, calling it „political theater, not productive lawmaking.”
„Let’s not waste the time,” he said on the Senate floor. „Let’s not get off on the wrong foot with House Democrats using their platform to produce political statements rather than serious solutions.”
McConnell said the Senate would not take up any proposal that did not have a real chance of getting Trump’s signature.
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer urged McConnell to allow the Democratic legislation to come to a vote in the chamber and said there was no reason to keep parts of the government unrelated to the border security issue shut down because of the wall standoff.
„If Leader McConnell tonight would put the bill that’s passing the House on the floor, it would pass,” Schumer said, noting that the measures previously had been backed by Senate Republicans.
Congressional leaders from both parties held unproductive talks with Trump at the White House on Wednesday and are to return for another round on Friday, a sign the shutdown is likely to continue at least for the rest of the week.
After the November congressional elections, Republicans have a 53-47 majority in the Senate and Democrats have a 235-199 margin in the House with one seat undecided.
Trump made the wall – a project estimated to cost about $23 billion – a key campaign promise in 2016, saying Mexico would pay for it and arguing it is needed to combat illegal immigration and drug trafficking. Democrats have called the wall immoral, ineffective and medieval.
„No, no. Nothing for the wall,” Pelosi said in an interview aired on Thursday on NBC’s „Today” show.
Credit rating agency Moody’s said the shutdown would cause minimal U.S. economic and credit market disruption but there could be a more severe impact on financial markets and the broad economy if the closure is protracted.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan, Ginger Gibson and Amanda Becker; Additional reporting by Lisa Lambert, Susan Cornwell and Susan Heavey; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Bill Trott and Peter Cooney)
One of President Trump’s go-to arguments for building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico is that it will cut down on illegal drug traffic. “I talk about human traffickers, I talk about drugs, I talk about gangs,” Trump said at his White House press conference Friday afternoon, defending his insistence on including $5.6 billion for a wall as a condition for ending the government shutdown. Trump’s fixation on drugs coming across the U.S. border — he has posted eight Twitter messages on the subject in the past month — dates at least as far back to 2015, when he wrote:
As it happens, El Chapo — the nickname for the drug-cartel boss Joaquín Guzmán Loera — is on trial in federal court in New York City now, and just a day earlier one of his top lieutenants took the stand and testified about the various methods the gang used to smuggle drugs into the U.S. According to the New York Times account, he told “countless stories of … shipping tons of drugs in cars, trains, planes and submarines — even in a truck beneath a load of frozen meat.”
All very ingenious — but it implies that Trump is overlooking an important point: A wall won’t stop an airplane, or any of the other vehicles mentioned, a list that left out, among other known smuggling routes, speedboats and the U.S. Postal Service. And if, as Trump said in his 2015 tweet, smugglers can cross the border “unimpeded,” why would they need to go to the trouble of building a submarine?
Trump claimed in his remarks Friday that aerial surveillance detects “vast numbers of vehicles driving through the desert and entering where you don’t have a very powerful fence or a wall.”
In fact, cartels have much more efficient ways of getting drugs into the U.S. than carrying them across the roadless desert. As the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) reported in its 2016 National Drug Threat Assessment, “Mexican TCOs [transnational criminal organizations] transport the majority of their illicit drugs into the United States over land through the SWB [Southwest border] using a wide array of smuggling techniques. The most common method employed by Mexican TCOs involves transporting drugs in vehicles through U.S. ports of entry (POEs). Illicit drugs are smuggled into the United States in concealed compartments within passenger vehicles or commingled with legitimate goods on tractor trailers.”
On Friday, Trump coupled his plea for the wall with a call for “bigger, more powerful” ports of entry with state-of-the-art “drug-finding equipment.”
Trump has also gone back and forth, numerous times, about the physical design of the wall, which at one point was described as concrete, and more recently as something like a giant steel slat fence, which would permit U.S. customs agents to observe activity on the other side. But if the spaces between the slats are wide enough to see through, they would also allow a smuggler to pass a package of cocaine, heroin, fentanyl or most other drugs except (relatively bulky) marijuana. As Gen. John Kelly, at the time the head of U.S. Southern Command, told a Senate hearing in 2015, all the heroin consumed in the U.S. in a year amounts to no more than 50 tons, the equivalent of a couple of shipping containers. Of course, drugs are only one of the things Trump claims his plan will stop — illegal immigrants, gang members and terrorists, for example. But building a wall through thousands of miles of desert in hopes of intercepting contraband that has so many easier routes into the country seems — to Democrats certainly — like a waste of money.
Oh, and you can always dig a tunnel underneath it.
Is the Age of the Aircraft Carrier Really Over?
The National Interest•January 3, 2019
Could carriers become as obsolete as the battleship?
Is the Age of the Aircraft Carrier Really Over?
The carriers of the future may well be relatively small vessels capable of hosting drones and fighter and electronic-warfare-optimized aircraft but not the heavier strike platforms that the carriers of today sustain.
One of the great conceits of admirals in the interwar years was their dogmatic embrace of the nostrum that battleships won naval wars. Officers such as those of the Imperial Japanese navy proved particularly susceptible to this dogma, a thought process that found itself manifested in so called super battleships such as the IJN Yamato, which one Japanese commentator ranked alongside the pyramids and the great wall of China as one of history’s great white elephants. Indeed, even after British carrier borne aircraft had demonstrated their value against the Italian navy at Taranto and Japan’s own carrier wing had achieved a spectacular tactical success at Pearl Harbor, Japanese admirals held firm to the view that the sheer firepower of a battleship would be the decisive arm of any navy.
(This first appeared several months ago.)
This is not to say that Japan’s admirals of the interwar years were entirely dismissive of carriers. Rather, they saw the carriers proper role as a supporting unit—acting as scouts and spotters for naval gunfire and laying smokescreens for big gun battleships as well as protecting them from land- and carrier-based aircraft. While attacking surface vessels was considered as a role, it was auxiliary insofar as Japan’s naval planners felt that aircraft could augment but not supplement large calibre fire.
Where Japan’s admirals erred was failing to recognize that the carrier in fact illustrated one of their own navy’s cherished principles—namely that range mattered more than firepower. While a battleship did deliver more firepower than an aircraft carrier, it could not get within range of a carrier in order to deliver this firepower before being targeted by carrier-based aircraft. Moreover, the anti-aircraft guns placed aboard ships were woefully inadequate for the task of intercepting waves of incoming aircraft.
A series of technological trends, however, have upended this dynamic and raise a question of whether the Japanese model of carrier employment may be coming into its own seventy years after the fact. Firstly, range no longer favors the aircraft carrier in its interactions with surface vessels. Anti-ship cruise missiles such as the hypersonic Russian Zircon could evolve to hold carriers at risk over a distance of over five hundred nautical miles—beyond the reach of carrier-based aircraft. Moreover, cruise missiles are being joined in the category of ranged weapons by tools such as the electromagnetic railgun, which relies on opposing charged electromagnetic rails to fire high-velocity projectiles at a rate of ten rounds per minute over long distances that may, in due time, extend as far as two hundred nautical miles.
Moreover the carrier’s second great advantage—the fact that ship based anti aircraft fire was in its infancy, is also waning. The SM-6 missiles based on board the vertical launch system of a Ticonderoga class destroyer can in principle intercept aircraft at a 240 km range while Chinese and Russian platforms such as the Luzhou and Kirov class destroyers host the S-300 FM missile capable of operating at similar ranges similar punch. Even relatively modest vessels such as frigates now carry increasingly sophisticated air defences. Compounding the issue further, the extended reach of shore based anti aircraft batteries such as the S-400 means that carrier based aircraft might also find itself within the range of shore based batteries if it finds itself confronting an opponent within the four hundred kilometers of a platform such as the S-400, for example.
Instead, the idea of a superbattleship such as the Yamato, ludicrous in its own time, may well be coming into its own. Navies have long experimented with the idea of arsenal ships, relatively small platforms capable of holding up to sixty-four vertical launch cells and launching large stocks of cruise missiles for some time now. In principle, however, the number of cells a ship can hold is a function of its size and capacity for power generation. A battleship the size of the Yamato with a length along the waterline of 263 meters could in principle hold substantially more cells carrying mixed loads of offensive missiles and defensive interceptors. Recent reports of the addition by China of a railgun to one of its amphibious landing craft and the nascent interest in ship-based lasers raises the prospect of new additions to this conceptual craft. Finally, the size of such a ship could allow navies to reintroduce naval armor without sacrificing other capabilities. Given that many anti-ship weapons such shore based ballistic missiles rely on high explosive warheads with limited armor-piercing capabilities, such a vessel would be optimal for an A2/AD environment. While the size of such a behemoth might seem to work against it, this very size may aid it in the capacity for power generation at levels needed to support the electromagnetic railgun and, should nascent technology bear fruit, ship based antimissile lasers.
Additionally, the sheer number of vertical launch cells such a ship could carry would mean that it would have coverage against missile attacks greater than that which is provided by the guided-missile destroyers accompanying a carrier. Moreover, as the nuclear powered Gerald R. Ford-class carriers have illustrated, generating the power to sustain enormous vessels with on board nuclear reactors such as the A1B which powers the Gerald Ford. If brought to fruition, such a vessel may have the same transformative role that the dreadnought and carrier did in their day.
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That being said, mothballing carriers may well be a bit premature. Many of the tools which threaten a carrier are arguably only operable in conjunction with organic air support. Cruise missiles such as the zircon can fly distances of up to five hundred nautical miles but the platforms that host them cannot spot targets over these distances. A ship-based radar such as the U.S. AN/SPY1 typically has a range of one hundred nautical miles while submarines have even shorter range radar. While space-based assets could extend a navy’s line of sight over the horizon, coordinating these assets with fielded forces in the face of invariable attempts at disruption promises to be a nightmare for most navies.
A range of air-based assets, however, can reliably provide a platform with targeting information over long distances and, moreover, can be produced at relatively low costs. Kratos Corporation’s QX222 drone for example, would have had an operational radius of over fifteen hundred miles, which would be more sufficient than providing reconnaissance and spotting to a modern battleship. Alternatively, light aircraft such as Saab’s Sea Gripen can provide the modern equivalent of laying smoke screens by operating in their specialized role as electronic-warfare platforms. Finally, of course, carrier-based fighters can augment ship-based air defenses to provide additional air cover to a battleship fleet.
It may be then that the carrier is not being rendered obsolete but is evolving (or regressing) into the role that interwar strategists had in mind for it—a platform geared towards spotting and perhaps providing fighter cover for a twenty-first century variant of the battleship.
Within this context, the carriers of the future may well be relatively small vessels capable of hosting drones and fighter and electronic-warfare-optimized aircraft but not the heavier strike platforms that the carriers of today sustain. Rather than being the centrepiece of a fleet carriers could well play a role analogous to the destroyers of today—supporting a nucleus of superbattleships. Purchases such as the Chinese Liaoning, which does not have the STOBAR launch system to carry heavy-strike aircraft but can carry fighter aircraft such as the J-15 and can conceivable carry drones in due time may be more compatible with a twenty-first century combat environment than is sometimes assumed. Instead of larger CATOBAR equipped strike platforms, the carrier of tomorrow may be smaller cheaper STOBAR equipped platforms geared towards providing cover, targeting data and air and ASW support to battleships.
The role of carriers, then would become analogous to that of guided missile destroyers, cruiser and submarines at present—namely a supporting arm of a central strike platform. Within this context carriers would perform the function that interwar tacticians had in mind for them that is, providing fire control and cover for the capital ships of the twenty-first century.
Sidharth Kaushal is a research fellow for Seapower at the Royal United Services Institute and has written on various aspects of maritime strategy both for edited volumes and various journals. He is in the process of completing his PhD at the London School of Economics and Political Science.