President Donald Trump will address the country at 9 p.m. ET tomorrow on the issue of immigration and, presumably, the ongoing fight over a border wall that has kept the federal government shut for the past 17 days.
The specifics of what Trump says – and whether all the networks give him the airtime to say it (CNN has already announced it will) – is tough-ish to predict. But it will almost certainly fall into one of two buckets.
Bucket 1: Trump announces he is declaring a state of emergency on the border, allowing him to use money allocated to the military to build a wall along the southern border.
Bucket 2: Trump cobbles together the various half-true – and less than half-true – statistics his administration has been using to create the idea of a crisis at the border, sprinkles in some anecdotes about violence committed by people in the country illegally and, voila, a prime-time address!
(I suppose there is a third bucket where Trump uses his prime-time bully pulpit to push a specific compromise plan. But I mean, come on.)
Under either scenario, the shutdown – and the chances of it ending before it breaks a record as the longest shutdown in modern political history – gets worse.
In Bucket 1, there are a series of legal challenges to Trump’s ability to end run Democrats’ refusal to allocate money in the federal budget to his border wall – not to mention the massive political fight that would ensure.
“I’m confident he could declare a national emergency but what that may mean in terms of adding new elements to this – in terms of court hearings and litigation that may carry this on for weeks and months and years – to me injecting a new element in this just makes it more complicated,” Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told CNN’s Manu Raju on Monday.
In Bucket 2, any progress made over the weekend – as staffers for the two sides met behind closed doors – would almost certainly be erased by the President’s over-the-top rhetoric. Given that any deal made and passed through Congress still requires the President’s signature to become law, putting Democrats on blast on national TV is almost certainly a bad thing.
Remember, too, that Trump has said – as recently as last Friday – that the shutdown could go on for a “very long period of time, months or even years.” (That was Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer quoting Trump but the President has confirmed he said it.)
Add it all up and the chances of a prolonged shutdown just keep going up with each passing day.
The Point: When has Trump speaking to the public made a situation less polarized or controversial? Go ahead and think. I’ll wait.