It's not a national emergency for Trump, it's a political one

It's not a national emergency for Trump, it's a political one
President Donald Trump returns to the White House on Feb. 8, 2019. Copyright Olivier Douliery Getty Images Pool
Copyright Olivier Douliery Getty Images Pool
By Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Carrie Dann with NBC News Politics
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First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.


WASHINGTON — Let's be honest: The emergency that President Trump faces at the border isn't a real national emergency — it's a perceived political one.

And that's why, after Congress passed a deal on Thursday that includes just $1.375 billion for fencing and barriers, the president is set to declare a national emergency and take executive action to secure the money to build his desired border wall, opening a Pandora's Box and guaranteeing months and years of lawsuits over his action.

Trump delivers remarks at the White House on this at 10:00 am ET.

As we've written before, crime in America's border cities is low (and has been low for years); apprehensions of undocumented immigrants also are on the decline; and most illegal drugs at the border cross at ports of entry - not in areas where there's a wall or fence.

So why is Trump doing this? Because he just suffered his most significant legislative since the health-care fights of 2017, as he's set to sign a spending deal that contains the SAME amount of money he was offered before the border battle began two months ago: $1.3 billion. And because he feels like his base won't forgive him if he retreats on his wall.

But it also might be a political emergency that ONLY HE SEES. As NBC's Benjy Sarlin tweets, it's not like his base was abandoning him after he caved on the shutdown last month.

"The funniest part about this move is there was no sign of any apparent issue with his voters from caving on the wall. Quite the opposite, his approval was shooting up in Gallup as soon as the shutdown ended."

One other thing to watch: How do congressional Republicans — especially the true-blue constitutionalists like Rand Paul - react to this? They were pretty outspoken in urging Trump not to make this move.

Then again, as the president has transformed the GOP, we've seen Republican lawmaker after Republican lawmaker usually buckle to Trump's demands.

Overall, this move by Trump is a big deal. As NBC's Kristen Welker observed on "Today," the president is trading one crisis (over a shutdown) for another crisis (over the Constitution and the separation of powers).

Bernie and Klobuchar vs. the other Dem 2020ers on the border deal

Now this is interesting: Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., voted yesterday for the border-spending bill that easily passed the Senate, while the other Dem 2020ers voted against it - Cory Booker, D-N.J., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

But in the House, the Dems running or thinking about 2020 - Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, and Seth Moulton, D-Mass., voted for it.

And speaking of 2020ers and walls, here's what Beto O'Rourke told MSNBC's Chris Hayes last night: He'd take down the border fencing in El Paso that was constructed in 2008-2009.

"His comment came in response to a question posed on Twitter by Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas. 'If you could snap your fingers and make El Paso's border wall disappear, would you?' Crenshaw said in his post that fencing and other border barriers have caused illegal crossings to drop significantly."

"But O'Rourke told Hayes the barriers don't bring Americans greater security. 'Here's what we know: after the Secure Fence Act, we have built 600 miles of wall and fencing on a 2,000 mile border,' O'Rourke said. 'What that has done is not in any demonstrable way made us safer.'"

Amazon pulling out of New York City highlights divide inside the Democratic Party

Amazon's decision on Thursday to nix its HQ2 plan for Queens, New York shows how the Democratic Party in New York City - exemplified by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D.N.Y. - has moved to the left. And that shift will make future Democratic primaries fascinating to watch.

What we're seeing inside the Democratic Party is a divide between the rising socialist wing of the party (like AOC) and the business/tech/capitalist wing that still believes businesses are important in creating jobs.

But it's also striking where we did NOT see this divide: Virginia, whose Democratic politicians eagerly accepted the new HQ2 in Crystal City.


This week's overlooked political stories

Border deal! National emergency! Trump vs. Beto in El Paso! Those were the big political stories this week, and they overshadowed these other ones that would have received much more attention in previous political eras:

  1. Trump's FEMA chief resigned. (FEMA director is a mighty important job…)
  2. "Whistleblower" sought protection after sounding alarm on Jared Kushner getting his security clearance.
  3. Senate passed sweeping land conservation bill.

On the 2020 trail

Per NBC's Kyle Stewart: Today, Kamala Harris is in South Carolina… Kirsten Gillibrand hits New Hampshire… Steve Bullock is in Iowa… Bill Weld does "Politics & Eggs" in New Hampshire… And Beto O'Rourke goes to Wisconsin.

On Saturday, Elizabeth Warren and Harris campaign in South Carolina… Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg and Gillibrand are in New Hampshire… Amy Klobuchar, Eric Swalwell and Bullock stump in Iowa.

And on Sunday, Booker visits New Hampshire… Warren is in Las Vegas… And Swalwell and John Delaney are in Iowa.

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