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March 24, 2019

America would become a dictatorship if Trump declares a national emergency, House leader says

January 9, 2019
President Trump is holding to his border wall funding demands and will speak to the nation tonight about the border in a televised address from the Oval Office. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)

The No. 2 leader of the House accused President Trump of acting like a dictator in the ongoing government shutdown Tuesday and warned that if he declared an emergency to build a wall on the southern border it would be like declaring martial law.

Trump has threatened to declare such an emergency, and some speculate whether that is the goal of his prime time address Tuesday night.

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House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) argued Trump does not have the authority, and if he tried to take it, he’d be acting like a despot.

“I think it is analogous to governments that we’ve seen all over the world declaring martial law in justifying them in doing whatever they want to do to whomever they want to do it whenever they want to do it,” Hoyer told reporters at a briefing in his office. “We don’t think that’s the American way. We don’t think that the constitutional way.”

Hoyer declined to say what Democrats would do if the President takes such a step, saying they’d wait and see what he actually does. He did acknowledge a lawsuit was possible.

Hoyer also compared the shuttering of the federal government — about a quarter of which closed in December when Congress balled at Trump’s demand to fund a wall on the border — to a serious crime.

“This is the third shutdown that was implemented as a policy, a policy to take hostage the people’s government and the people who work for the government,” Hoyer said, referring to previous instances in the ‘90s and 2013. “In another context, we would call that an act of kidnapping or terrorism.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Democratic leader’s comments.

Hoyer also argued that Trump’s plan to have the IRS issue tax refunds in coming weeks and months, despite being closed, was another tyrannical move.

“The President now is going to going to order them to do what we think is illegal to do because he wants to act like a dictator,” Hoyer said.

He and Democrats intend to pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to reopen government by holding votes on individual funding bills that have previously passed in the Senate and were passed last week in the House as a package.

He reminded reporters that in 2014 before McConnell became the Senate leader he he pledged to avoid shutdowns, calling them a “failed policy.”

He added that besides a handful of Republicans calling for a reopening of government in the Senate and seven who voted for the funding in the House, many Republicans would vote affirmatively if McConnell would allow a vote. McConnell has said repeatedly that he will not hold a vote until Democrats and the president reach a deal.

“I know for a fact that there are many more than seven Republicans who believe with Sen. McConnell that this is a failed, stupid policy,” Hoyer said.

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