On Monday, the network morning shows all decried the possibility of President Trump declaring a national emergency to secure the southern border in the midst of the government shutdown. However, as fearful as anchors and correspondents were of such a move, they seemed to forget that one of their colleagues actually suggested the idea during a White House press conference on Friday.
“Hitting the wall. Both sides dig in hard, the shutdown enters it’s third week, and the President threatens to go it alone on his wall,” co-host Savannah Guthrie warned at the top of NBC’s Today show. Following a soundbite of the President acknowledging that he was “looking at a national emergency because we have a national emergency,” Guthrie declared: “Democrats saying no chance.”
In the report that followed minutes later, White House correspondent Kristen Welker fretted: “And in a bid to try to turn up the heat on Democrats, on Sunday, President Trump again threatened to declare a national emergency and unilaterally send troops to the border.” She added: “Such a move would undoubtedly face legal challenges, Democrats fired back.”
A clip ran of California Congressman Adam Schiff scolding: “This president doesn’t have the power to declare an emergency and build a multibillion-dollar wall on the border.”
“Shutdown showdown. President Trump now threatening to declare a national emergency over funding for his boarder wall,” co-host Cecilia Vega announced as ABC’s Good Morning America began. Minutes later, fellow co-host George Stephanopoulos worried: “And President Trump is digging in with his threat to declare a national emergency if Congress refuses to fund his border wall.”
Senior Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce reported:
And with no compromise in sight here, the President is now considering going it alone. Possibly declaring that national emergency to use military funds to build his wall. But that is certain to be challenged in the courts and by Democrats.
Leading off CBS This Morning, co-host Norah O’Donnell sounded the alarm: “President Trump may try to bypass Democrats to secure billions for a border wall after weekend talks failed to break the deadlock.” During the report that followed, correspondent Major Garrett noted: “A presidential emergency declaration might allow Mr. Trump to divert Pentagon funds to accelerate construction of the wall, but Democrats balked.”
What was missing from the coverage was any explanation of how the idea of declaring a “national emergency” at the border became a public discussion. The subject was actually first raised by ABC correspondent Terry Moran during a Friday press conference in the Rose Garden, when he asked the President: “Have you considered using emergency powers to grant yourself authorities to build this wall without congressional approval?”
At the time, and in the days since, Trump has repeatedly stated that he was considering that approach, but preferred trying to negotiate a budget deal with Democrats:
No, we can use – absolutely, we can call a national emergency because of the security of our country, absolutely. No, 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. And it’s another way of doing it, but if we can do it through a negotiated process. We’re giving that a shot.
The media tactic is quite familiar: A reporter asks a question suggesting a controversial course of action, gets a politician to acknowledge considering the idea, then bashes said politician for daring to even think about the policy proposal.