"When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal."—Richard Nixon
Who pays the price for the dissolution of the constitutional covenant that holds the government and its agents accountable to the will of the people?
We all do.
This ill-advised decision by President Trump to circumvent the Constitution's system of checks and balances by declaring a national emergency in order to build a border wall constitutes yet another expansion of presidential power that exposes the nation to further constitutional peril.
It doesn't matter that the legal merits of this particular national emergency will be challenged in court.
The damage has already been done.
As reporter Danny Cevallos points out, "President Donald Trump only had to say 'national emergency' to dramatically increase his executive and legal authority. By simply uttering those words … Trump immediately unleashed dozens of statutory powers available to a president only during a state of emergency. The power of the nation's chief executive to declare such an emergency knows few strictures — it was designed that way."
We have now entered into a strange twilight zone where ego trumps justice, propaganda perverts truth, and imperial presidents—empowered to indulge their authoritarian tendencies by legalistic courts, corrupt legislatures and a disinterested, distracted populace—rule by fiat rather than by the rule of law.
This attempt by Trump to rule by fiat merely plays into the hands of those who would distort the government's system of checks and balances and its constitutional separation of powers beyond all recognition.
This is about unadulterated power in the hands of the Executive Branch.
This is about corporate greed disguised as a national need.
Most of all, however, this is about the rise of an "emergency state" that justifies all manner of government tyranny and power grabs in the so-called name of national security.
This is exactly the kind of concentrated, absolute power the founders attempted to guard against by establishing a system of checks of balances that separates and shares power between three co-equal branches: the executive, the legislative and the judiciary.
"The system of checks and balances that the Framers envisioned now lacks effective checks and is no longer in balance," concludes law professor William P. Marshall. "The implications of this are serious. The Framers designed a system of separation of powers to combat government excess and abuse and to curb incompetence. They also believed that, in the absence of an effective separation-of-powers structure, such ills would inevitably follow. Unfortunately, however, power once taken is not easily surrendered."