The following “to do” list needs to be on President Donald Trump’s desk this morning before mistakes are made in the implementation of a border wall built with emergency funds. With the fast-moving news, if it is not too late already, there is great risk of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
1) Take the weekend to get it right. It is not enough to do the right thing. One must do it the right way. Especially with controversial actions that are certain to be tested in court, the details matter. PUT DOWN THE PEN and take another 96 hours until Tuesday morning.
2) Do not sign the budget deal. (It will probably be too late by the time anyone reads this.) There is concern that it could weaken or even destroy the President’s ability to declare an emergency to fund the border wall mandated under the Secure Fence Act of 2006.
Some of the 140+ limitations and poison pills marbled through the corrupt budget deal just worked out could seriously repeal Trump’s authority to declare an emergency to fund the wall. Trump should not sign the budget deal until the money is already reprogrammed under an emergency.
3) Don’t declare a national emergency — today. Wait a few days.
Government workers will mostly be off for the weekend plus President’s Day on Monday. Government employees won’t be back to work until Tuesday morning anyway.
4) (VERY IMPORTANT.) First, Texas must ask for an emergency. Most emergencies are requested by a State’s Governor. While a president does have the power to declare an emergency under the National Emergencies Act of 1976 without being asked, in this case Trump should not. Trump must get on the phone confidentially behind the scenes and inquire if the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, will issue a request for a declaration of an emergency.
The courts cannot stop Trump’s declaration of an emergency, if it is based upon a request from the State of Texas. Abbott — when then Attorney General of Texas — already wrote letters to then President Barack Obama demanding immediate action. He didn’t use the word “emergency” but what he said was essentially the same.
Some may be cynical about whether Abbott was just posturing for the base. But he is already on record writing letters to the then-President which lack only the word “emergency” to be a request for an emergency.
5) Sort out the details. The devil is in the details. Document, document, document. Trump should ask Texas’ Governor for a complete list of every incident, threat, example, and circumstance of gang violence, intrusions by coyotes, danger, drug smuggling, human trafficking, sex slavery, money laundering, etc. The emergency must be supported with specifics.
6) Trump should work with the Texas state legislature. He could ask the Texas legislature to invoke Article 4, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, which requires the federal government to defend the States. Rep. Briscoe Cain and Rep. Kyle Biedermann of the Texas House of Representatives are some of those taking the lead on this issue.
7) Declare an emergency, but take action only in Texas. Texas is in the Fifth Circuit. Actions in California, New Mexico, and Arizona go to the Ninth Circuit. Understand that the declaration of an emergency can be separated from the specific actions taken under the emergency status.
8) Reprogram emergency funds immediately under the authority of the emergency declaration — before signing the budget deal bill.
NOTE: It is said that Congress gets to overturn an emergency. Well, not exactly. The National Emergencies Act of 1976 gives Congress the power to “terminate” a state of emergency.
That would mean that if Trump had already moved the money before Congress votes to terminate the emergency, then the money is “gone” — re-purposed to build the wall.
The power of Congress is not to overturn the emergency — as if it had never happened. The text of the National Emergency Act of 1976 talks about when the emergency ends
So if Trump has his Office of Management and Budget and Department of Defense people work all weekend and on President’s Day, and signs the paperwork at 7 AM on Tuesday morning when the government re-opens after President’s Day and then later that same day Congress votes to “terminate” the emergency, that would NOT invalidate the moving of the money already completed before they “terminate” the emergency.
Furthermore, the courts cannot overturn an emergency. The law commits the question to Congress. Unless the courts break their own rules, the courts cannot consider the question. The issue is “textually committed to another branch.” Since Congress has been given the power to end an emergency, the courts have been deprived of any authority. It is purely a “political question” committed to Congress.
9) Sign the budget bill only after the funds have already been reprogrammed under the declaration of an emergency. Keep the budget people working all weekend. The budget deal cannot stop the reprogramming of funds under the emergency declaration after the money has already been moved over to fund the border wall.
NOTE: There is significant cause for concern that all of the limitations and poison pills in the budget deal bill could cancel Trump’s authority to build the border wall by emergency declaration.
Move the money first (this weekend) before signing the budget deal. If the money has already been moved, the budget deal cannot stop it.
10) Don’t worry about the courts. Well, no. Fear the courts when it comes to being meticulously careful in doing it right — Then ignore them. Trump needs better legal advice and help to carefully plan the strategy and implementation and navigate the land mines. However, if the plan is done right, the courts cannot stop this. No need to tip off the anti-American open border activists explaining why they are going to lose badly.
11) Break up the building of the wall into its constituent steps.
Many of the constituent steps can be accomplished without using “border wall” funding per se, but are normal tasks.
12) Order the Defense Mapping Agency and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency within DoD and the U.S. Geological Survey within the U.S. Department of Interior to complete a comprehensive analysis and study of every mile of the border.
Most of that data already exists of course but it should be compiled into a mile-by-mile comprehensive analysis, designating each section by identification number, including satellite imagery, topography, and soil / geological conditions.
13) Order the Department of Defense to build an access road or upgrade existing roads, as needed, along the international border. President Dwight Eisenhower spearheaded the interstate highway system as important for national defense, for moving troops and equipment quickly around the country. The military needs to be able to access the international border along its entire length.
14) Dispense with the “designed to fail” wall designs.
There are companies that can build vertical slats or Bollard wall designs (without the cap at the top, to frustrate climbing) right up to the banks of the Rio Grande. If there is a road there, we can build he wall right next to the river. The right way to do it is to SINK a steel “footer” deep into the ground (dig a trench) which has wings or feet out to the side. That footer is buried deep into the ground, and then is buried. Even in wet conditions, the wall will stand up on top of it above the ground. Add concrete if you want, but that is not necessary. Remember that underwater concrete exists. So pretty much all that is needed is the ability to dig a deep and wide trench, transport of the steel parts, and to stand up the vertical slats on top of the (to be buried) footer.
15) Work around the butterfly fiasco to avoid unnecessary public relations problems.
Construction of the wall is about to cut through the North American Butterfly Center’s 100 acres because the builders are foolishly leaving 70 acres of U.S. soil on the Southern side of the wall.
Invaders will cross the Rio Grande, set up a tent city with U.N. refugee monitors, reporters, birth tourism, and circus, in the 70 acre landing zone created by putting the wall in a stupid place. There are companies that can put the wall right up next to the Rio Grande — not half a mile inland. Ask James Bonk, who worked on the wall construction teams in 2006 to 2008. There is already a road right along the Rio Grande. The wall can be built next to the river.
16) Incorporate irrigation canals or pipes to supply water to those ranchers or farmers who currently rely on the Rio Grande for access to water.
17) Minimize unnecessary friction related to the use of eminent domain.
Do not take entire ranches or farms. Put the wall as close as possible to the Rio Grande. Don’t take any more land than necessary. Take an EASEMENT by eminent domain as a narrow strip along the border.
No one should have private ownership of the international border. It is bizarre that this was ever allowed to develop. No private landowner should expect to own land right next to the international border. No such landowner’s complaints should be taken seriously when they knew that is our nation’s border. But we will compensate them under the Fifth Amendment rules for eminent domain. The value of their land will increase without gang violence and trespassers flowing across the border. We should compensate them only for a narrow easement along the border itself.
As background, one letter responded to bullets fired from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, struck City Hall in El Paso, Texas on June 30, 2010. (See Texas Capitol Report, El Paso Times, June 30, 2010.)
June 30, 2010
Dear Mr. President,
Deadly violence from drug cartels and transnational gangs in Mexico is knocking on the United States’ door with ever increasing frequency. Yesterday, gunfire from the cartels pierced that threshold and struck City Hall in El Paso. Fortunately no one was injured or killed. But that good fortune was not the result of effective border control – it was mere luck that the bullets struck buildings rather than bodies.
Luck and good fortune are not effective border enforcement policies. The shocking reality of cross border gunfire proves the cold reality: American lives are at risk. As the attached news article notes: “More than 1,300 people have been murdered in Juárez this year as a war continues relentlessly between the Juárez and Sinaloa drug cartels.” Americans must be protected as this deadly war bulges at our border.
Law enforcement officials with the Texas Department of Public Safety and your own U.S. Customs and Border Protection will reveal the hard truth. Our state is under constant assault from illegal activity threatening a porous border.
The time for talk has passed. The time for action is now. The need is urgent. Each day that passes increases the likelihood that an American life will be lost because of the federal government’s failure to secure the border.
This threat demands immediate and effective action by your Administration to secure our border. As the Attorney General of Texas, I urge you to make border security your top priority so that no more innocent lives are lost to border violence.
Attorney General, State of Texas
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Exiled Turkish Journalist Warns: Authoritarian Leaders like Erdogan Use Guise of Populism to Destroy Democracy
The exiled former Editor-in-Chief of Turkey’s now-defunct daily Zaman newspaper Abdulhamit Bilci explained how Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fooled Turkey and the world as he strategically destroyed the secular model that was put in place by his predecessor and implemented an Islamic form of government which is changing the face of the nation.
Now, Bilci devotes his time to warning other people about the early signs of the destruction of democracy. He is currently living in exile in the United States.
In a stunning tell-all with The Investigative Journal, Bilci detailed Erdogan’s path from local-level politics to his rise as one of the world’s most notorious authoritarian rulers.
Bilci started his career as a reporter in the 1990s covering political rallies and events for then-candidate Erdogan who ran a successful campaign to become the mayor of Istanbul. He said he developed a familiarity with Erodgan through years of his political coverage of him as a reporter and leading up to his time as editor-in-chief of Zaman — a role he held until he fled the county in March 2016, four months before the failed coup attempt.
In the 1990s, before Erdogan was imprisoned for being seen as a threat to Turkey’s secularism – a model that was instated by the late Mustafa Kemal Ataturk – Erdogan had stated “Democracy is like a train: when you reach your destination, you get off.” That quote can be sourced to a newspaper, “Milliyet Gazete Arsivi.”
“He was jailed in the 1990s, for four months, for reciting a poem because the secular establishment did not like his ideas and they were trying to stop him. But he was a successful mayor with his crazy ideology,” Bilci said. Erdogan was imprisoned between March to July of 199. During his conviction, he was forced to forfeit his mayoral position. “When he was mayor of Istanbul he was from the Islamist Party,” Bilci said.
Bilci said it was unfortunate that the secular establishment by jailing him made him more popular because then he became a victim; a tool of manipulation Erodgan used to his political advantage.
“When Erdogan got out of prison, he told the powers that be that he had changed his mind and that he was no longer an Islamist and had become democratic. And when he founded the AK Party he said we are not Islamists. We are conservative democrats; we are like Christian democrats in Europe. He then pushed for Turkey to become a member of the EU.”
However, prior to this, Erdogan had vehemently been opposed to having Turkey join the European Union. According to Bilci, “Erodgan saw the EU as a Christian club and believed Turkey has no place in that according to his Islamist vision.”
With his cosmetic change away from Islamism, Erdogan began receiving the support of democracies throughout the world. He was seen as the rising example and model of a Muslim leader who was trying to democratize his country. In fact, Turkey became a model for the Muslim world for democracy.
“I believed in him and I supported him in those years. But things started to change in his third term in 2011,” he said. “There were some signals of change and he gradually stopped the policy of Turkey becoming a better democracy and part of the EU. Instead, he turned increasingly to the Middle East. These were the Arab spring years.”
For a period of about 8-9 years, Zaman Daily supported Erdogan. The publication had approximately 1 million daily subscribers at its peak.
“The newspaper was supporting him during his first eight years as prime minister,” Bilci said. “And the whole world was supporting him; the international media, the New York Times.” He continued, “but that was during the Obama years. He was trying to make reforms in democracy and improve the economy and make Turkey a member of the European Union. All of these policies were in line with our newspaper’s interior line as well.”
Bilci said Erodgan played a very clever game.
“He was showing himself as being democratic for 8-9 years during the time we were supporting him in an attempt to control all the power because he needed that support since the secular establishment in Turkey hated him. So, to counterbalance the secular establishment, he needed the support of democrats and to show up as a democrat.”
But around 2012-2013, things started to change and Erdogan took on an authoritarian approach which Bilci says the world is seeing to this day.
“Obama and the Europeans continued to legitimize Erdogan in 2013 and beyond. They were not candid in criticizing him and it is a pity they did not stop him,” he said. “We were telling them that Erdogan is destroying democracy and the rule of law and you should be candid to protest that and not appease the guy because it will be bad for the Turkish people and the entire democratic world.” However, despite these warnings, many western, democratic leaders, including Obama continued to appease Erdogan who continued to get closer to Russia and jail journalists even going so far as attacking America’s allies, the Kurds, and procuring negative policies in Libya and Syria that benefited jihadists.
“Once his authoritarianism and corruption were revealed, we exposed it and that made him the enemy,” Bilci said of Erdogan. He said the Turkish government was providing the crux of the publication’s funding and the newspaper fell on hard times between 2015 and 2016 because Erdogan “was calling companies and telling them not to purchase advertisements from our media and there were financial and legal pressures applied.” Similar attempts to crush opposition media were made against conservative publications like Breitbart News by progressives in the United States.
“Our reporters were not able to attend press conferences. He revoked our press cards. In those three years, there were crazy things occurring but we continued our critical editorial line. We did not fall down,” Bilci said. “Finally, he used the nuclear option. He used appointees that he controlled and sent police forces to come to our offices and fired me.” He said in his place, “Erdogan’s thugs” hired a mouthpiece journalist from the pro-government daily paper (Akit), which he described as “a hardline Islamist newspaper,” to be the new editor. “Within 24 hours, Zaman newspaper became a propaganda mouthpiece for the Erdogan regime.”
The move by Erdogan to strangle press freedom had dire consequences for the publication.
“Our readers did not approve of that change,” Bilci said. “At the time of occupation, our circulation was around 700,000 people a day, which had come down from 1 million people per day due to the government takeover of it.” He continued, “our readers did not approve that change and they protested by stopping to buy it. So, within one week the circulation decreased to 5,000 people per day. This was the total and complete and total destruction of a private media company.”
Once the coup took place, Zaman was shut down altogether. In addition to this, Erdogan’s government shut down around 200 critical media outlets. They raided the homes of journalists and columnists from media outlets critical of Erdogan and arrested them. “Luckily, I was not home. But colleagues of mine who were arrested in July 2016 are still in jail. Some of them received life sentences, others 10 years, and others still 6 years.”
Academics, teachers, lawyers, doctors, are among those who have been locked up unjustly.
“I feel lucky that I got out and I am free but I feel so sad that I left my friends behind,” Bilci said. “The only thing I can do is continue speaking out to tell this story.” Despite having over 200,000 followers on Twitter, Bilci’s message does not reach those inside of Turkey. “A court order in Turkey has blocked my Twitter from being visible to the Turkish people. Unfortunately, Twitter cooperated with the Turkish court’s decision.”
“When he grabbed power, he showed his real identity. He used Islamism but I don’t think that he is a sincere Muslim. I think he is using Islam to fool people; specifically –Turkey’s conservative people which are his constituency — to cover up his authoritarianism and corruption.” Bilci added, “Democracies are fragile and anyone living in democracy today should be careful about the ways and methods that are being used to destroy democracy using democratic mechanisms.”
He concluded, “Turkey should be studied more by the democratic world, by the media, and by academics so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes again. Erdogan is one of the prime examples of populism gone wrong. He should become an example of what not to let happen. So, in that regard, Turkey is a prime example for learning lessons in history.”
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