The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Anything to Declare?

California Governor Gavin Newsom said the state will sue President Donald Trump for declaring a national emergency over the border wall.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, left, flanked by Attorney General Xavier Becerra, right, answers a question concerning a lawsuit the state plans to file against President Donald Trump over his emergency declaration to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

What We’re Following Today

It’s Friday, February 15. President Donald Trump signed a spending deal to avert a government shutdown.

But Wait, There’s More: During his free-associative remarks from the Rose Garden, Trump said that he is officially declaring a national emergency in order to access funds to build his border wall. He also plans to reallocate approximately $8 billion in agency funds. Many Republicans have expressed misgivings about the move, and Trump’s decision serves as a test of their willingness to oppose the president. In response, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said they’ll take action “in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public.”

Trump, in his speech, seemed to undermine his own case for the national emergency: “I can do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this,” the president said. And as promised, California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Friday that he is preparing a lawsuit. “President Trump is manufacturing a crisis and declaring a made-up ‘national emergency’ in order to seize power and subvert the constitution,” Newsom said.

Are You a Citizen?: The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a question about citizenship status can be added to the 2020 census. The Trump administration is locked in a legal battle against several states and advocacy groups who worry that the question will depress census participation.

A Challenge From Within: Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld announced that he plans to form an exploratory committee to challenge Trump for the 2020 GOP presidential nomination. “I think our country is in grave peril and I cannot sit any longer quietly on the sidelines,” the Republican said.

A Reckoning in the Russia Investigation: The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee claimed that the former British spy Christopher Steele was unwilling to engage with the probe, when in reality, Steele submitted written answers to the panel’s questions in August, reports Natasha Bertrand. Meanwhile, the House Intelligence Committee has approximately 24 staffers working on the Russia probe, while the Senate committee has only nine.

Programming Note: We won’t be sending a newsletter on Monday, due to the Presidents’ Day holiday. See you Tuesday!


Marla Wolff, whose husband, the FBI agent Carlos Wolff, was killed in a traffic accident involving an undocumented immigrant, displays a family photograph as President Trump declared a national emergency in the Rose Garden of the White House. (Jim Young / Reuters)

Ideas From The Atlantic

Trump’s National Emergency Will Face Four Hurdles (David Frum)
“Every additional dollar he devotes to the border is a dollar taken from another project already approved by Congress. Every one of those projects has patrons and sponsors. And because most military contracting goes to red states, most of the reshuffled dollars will be removed from red states.” → Read on.

Gavin Newsom’s Big Idea (Reihan Salam)
“Not long ago ... the governor of California was dismissed as a showboating opportunist who cared more about climbing the political ladder than he did about the finer details of public policy. But his decision to abandon the dream of a high-speed train that would ferry passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco, at least for now, suggests that he’s made of sterner stuff. ” → Read on.

Stop Alleging Anti-Semitism to Score Political Points (Jeremy Ben-Ami)
“Being afforded the space for criticism brings with it an obligation on the part of ... critics to think about the impact of their words—and tweets. And critics of the critics should be called to task when their rhetoric crosses the line to Islamophobia and racism.” → Read on.

Trump Crosses the Rubicon (Noah Rothman)
“Let’s not mince words: backing Trump in this moment is not the prerogative of an institutionalist, which the majority leader claims to be. It is the prerogative of a partisan operator motivated, above all, by deference to a fleeting political imperative: avoiding another government shutdown.” → Read on.

I Will Never Forget El Mozote. Elliott Abrams Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Either. (Raymond Bonner)
“At the Roman Catholic church in El Mozote, soldiers separated men from their families, took them away, and shot them. They herded mothers and children into the convent. Putting their American-supplied M-16 rifles on automatic, the soldiers opened fire. Then they burned the convent. Some 140 children were killed, including toddlers. Average age: 6.” → Read on.

What Else We’re Reading

The Most Important Woman in Congress Is Not Who You Think (Michael Kruse, Politico Magazine)
Bill Weld Launches GOP Presidential Exploratory Committee (Joe Battenfeld, Boston Herald)
Sherrod Brown Is Not an Idiot (Rich Lowry, National Review)
What Amazon Got Wrong About New York City (Casey Newton, The Verge)

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