Three ways President Trump could get his wall


Hello listeners and welcome to another edition of politicos nerd cast. I'm Scott bland, your host. This week on the nerd cats. President Donald Trump heads to the border as the partial government shutdown nears the start of its fourth week. We're going to unpack the three unilateral ways that President Donald Trump might try to get his wall. Plus is better rookie candidate in waiting for twenty twenty. He lost his Texas Senate race he's talking about a solo road trip across the country. He spent the morning Instagram live ING a trip to the dentist here at the dentist. Talking his hygienist about growing up in El Paso. What does it all mean? Dan is going to tell us a little bit about growing up enough. Actually, we're going to talk about the role the digital organizing is playing in in this nascent twenty twenty campaign and how aerobic fits into that. And how the organizing that he did while he was running for Senate in Texas set him up for a potential presidential bid. It's going to be a really good talk. As always we're taping. This a little bit before noon eastern on Thursday today. That's January the tenth. So it's all up to date as of then who knows who else overwork is going to Instagram. Live with today after we tape. But anyway, let's get started our first data point one point two or one point two billion perhaps I should say that's one point two billion dollars. That's the overall economic cost of the partial government shutdown each week, according to the president's chief economist, so we're going to talk about that shutdown and some of the what was starting to look like the likely paths out of it with White House reporter, Nancy cook. Hi, nancy. Hey, scott. Thanks for having me. Welcome. So Nancy take us behind the scenes at the White House this week as they've tried to figure out how to sell the American public on the government shutdown when we talked to you last week. We talked a lot about how basically nothing was happening and that totally changed this week. But it doesn't seem like it has changed the fundamental underlying reasons for the shutdown or opened up a path out. Yes, What's happened? This week is that the White House has become much more aggressive in trying to make the shutdown going. In their favor. And so we saw that starting early in the week vice president Pence in D H S secretary cures to Nielsen sat down with reporters, which you know, they they don't always do. So they sat down with reporters and spoke on the record Trump gave this prime time address on Tuesday night in which he laid out the argument that there was this humanitarian crisis at the border Moshe, most immigration experts say that that is not true. But he was really making that case, and he did so in sort of stark and violent terms talking about human trafficking, and the number of people who have been killed by illegal immigrants facts that people thought that he wildly exaggerated. And then today he's going to mcallen, Texas, which is right on the border and the Rio Grande valley, and he is going to have a briefing there meet with some border patrol, folks. And there there is a wall slated to be built in that area in the coming months. And so I we assume that part of the visit will be touring that and. So the White House really has been taking a much more aggressive messaging stance this week, and partly it's like a PR thing. They want to try to convince Americans that there is immigration crisis and this border Wallace totally needed. But also what I've been told as they're also laying the groundwork for to take potential unilateral action. So they're trying to lay down the legal argument in case. The president does something like declare a national state of emergency which would allow him to secure these this money for the border wall without going through congress. I want to jump back to that in a minute. But what's driving this change in strategy is that recognition or thought by by the White House that they're losing the public relations battle that people are blaming Trump more so than Democrats in congress is it a thought that Trump is lose like is is seen as weak because he's not able to get this thing that he's been talking about for so long or is it something else entirely? So there's a few factors at play one. I think that this is the start of a trend that will see throughout twenty nineteen in. In which the White House staff and folks around Trump are just letting him be even Trump ier than he has been in the past. There's a sense that there's no point in trying to manage him. You've got to let him do what he wants and what he wants is a border wall because he sees that as a key campaign promise for twenty twenty two people in the White House are very nervous about the shutdown at this point. I would say there's been a real change in their attitude privately in the last week since we last spoke, and they're very nervous. You know polling shows that Americans are blaming Trump, not the Republicans and not the Democrats increasingly for the shutdown. I mean, Trump himself has said he's owned it. But the American people are are holding him responsible. And then third the White House is very worried that Republicans on the hill are going to start to defect and they're not going to support Trump. They're not going to back him up. They're going to eventually go over and vote with Democrats to reopen. These parts of the federal government that have closed, and that's been a huge part of the messaging this week. It hasn't. Just been to the general public. It's been two Republicans on the hill, it's striking to the Zoll happening in again, we we've talked in previous episodes about how even just a couple of days after the midterm elections. If you looked at the news it was like the midterms it never happened. Right. It was all about Jeff Sessions getting fired and and so on and so forth, but we just had midterm elections where Republicans lost forty house seats after Trump spent all of October dialing up the rhetoric and the pressure and making immigration and a border wall. The central part of this like let's so interesting to me is we had two years of one hundred percent Republican controlled government. Republicans controlled the White House the house and the Senate that would have been a great time to get funding for the border wall because Republicans controlled everything and the White House wasn't able to do it then. And so now the partly because of the sixty vote threshold in the Senate right here that's had an element of control. Because of that, exactly. But it never got pushed to this point. It never got pushed to this point. And now here we are in the air of divided government. Like, it's only a week old actually. And now the government is partially shut down over this. And so, you know, I think that there's some disappointment among some Republicans at it's coming up now. And I think Republicans are really worried about taking the heat. I mean, we've seen Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, basically, go dark on us. And he's you know, normally sort of a key dealmaker. And so folks in the White House, I would say are are getting very very nervous. I want to jump back to to what you said before about the the whole sequence of events that we've seen over the past week. And and the president's public communications all seems to be setting the ball rolling for an emergency declaration, right? And a setting up a situation where he would be able to get the money without having appropriated through through. Congress can you tell us a little bit more about how that would work and the the various issues that that would arise as a result of of of that coming to pass there would be legal challenges. I'm sure there would potentially be congressional investigations share. So I mean just this morning as President Trump was getting on Marine One has helicopter to go to Andrews Air Force base to fly at a Texas. He basically said he was asked about declaring a national emergency. And he said, you know, he said that he probably definitely would do it. And so it seems like that is the path that's headed because it seems like that's the only way out of the shutdown, and when I talk to people in the White House, it seems like that's how it's going to go. And when you say the only way out of the shutdown the only way that without him having to give up right? A last night, for instance, a Wednesday night, Jared Kushner, senior advisor to the White House the president's son-in-law and Shahir a night who is the White House congressional as liaison met with some Republicans on the hill. I've heard some mixed things about what Kushner has been offering. But they basically work to try to come up with some sort of deal before this trip. And you know, I've heard DACA has been on the table. Do you know what I mean, they've just been trying to see what could be give Democrats that would make them. Give us a little bit of money for the border wall that would be appealing to Trump. But no deal was reached. And so now, it seems like increasingly the way out of the shutdown is going to be Trump is going to declare some sort of national emergency. It's going to go to the courts immediately, and it's going to get blocked, but that that would allow Trump to basically say, look, I tried and these activists judges screwed me over. So it gives him sort of a way to save face and have a talking point that he can use on the campaign trail, and when you say immediately, we're talking in court terms, right? And so it would potentially, you know, give the opportunity for some sort of government funding to to get signed and implemented in the government's reopened. And then the court Bill, oh, by the way, this key part of the deal, and so right into the Republicans and Democrats would pass the spending Bill to open the federal reopen the federal government while the court was figuring this out. But people in the White House, largely think the courts would block this. And so there's sort of three ways that that that the president could do this as I've talked to Republicans close to the White House and lawyers one is that he could declare a national state of emergency which would allow him to tap, you know, emergency funds. But part of that is making the argument that this is a national security crisis. That's why we've seen him talk about it in these terms this week another option would be to tap some money through the army corps of engineers for disaster relief and Marsin interestingly some army corps of engineers people and the secretary of the army going down to Texas with Trump today. So that's another possibility. And then a another possibility is tapping some money from the department of defense. This was brought up when Mattis was still here. And as one of the reasons that Mattis quit among others, but would be tapping that money law enforcement can basically say, oh, we need this money to the department of defense, and they would give it to them. And so sort of there. Three different legal ways that Trump could do this unilaterally and White House lawyers have basically been working around the clock this week to try to figure out. How can we build the case to do this legally? And also is something we wanted you because there is a real worry. Even from some conservatives that this would be a huge overreach of presidential power. If he took the step, and and I I assume part of what the the White House lawyers are trying to figure out which if any of those three avenues would would be least susceptible to to potential getting blocked by court. Exactly. And I had one Republican White House adviser tell me this week that you know, part of the visit to the border today. You know, initially that was conceived of as a photo op, but now it's becoming part of the legal strategy. You know, the president can go down there and meet with people and get a briefing, and it's another data point that lawyers can say, well, this is part of the reason that we did this. But you know, I just want to make one more point, you know, the White House top. Ernie Pat, sip baloney. This is he has been in the White House for four and a half weeks. Welcome pat. And so, you know, he is a very well respected lawyer came from private practice but worked at the department of Justice under George W Bush. I think he's well liked. He doesn't have a real bomb thrower personality. I've been told, but it's interesting to me, you know, he's just he's just getting his feet wet. He's just getting up to speed there. He just hired all these new lawyers whose job it is is to largely deal with all the oversight investigations. And that's really kind of what they've been thinking through. Meanwhile, they've also suddenly been having to think through the legality of getting the president out of this government shutdown news, you know, boom before the Oval Office address this week before the trip to the border more Americans blamed Trump for the shutdown than Democrats in congress. So that that's Cording to politico morning consult poll, that's a out recently. So we'll we'll see if any of the events of this week change that and if it forces some sort of compromise, or if we do end up careening down this this national. Agency path and and see what happens in the courts. I just want to say one more thing. Tomorrow. Friday, January eleventh is the first day that federal workers will miss a paycheck. And I think that that is going to bring a lot more heat to the White House because you know, using a federal workers in the Washington DC area is making six figures a lot of them do, but the average federal worker paycheck is five hundred dollars a week or and so that's you know, people are gonna be feel the pain. And I think those stories will start to come out, and that's gonna put a lot more pressure on the White House to we've already seen some stuff by air, traffic, controllers TSA, so and so forth. All right. We'll keep an eye on Nancy. Thanks so much for coming in. Thanks for having me. Right. We're going to leave that behind and jump into our next data point, which is seven hundred thousand and that is the number seven hundred thousand people, and that's a conservative estimate who made at least one donation to better orcs failed Senate campaign in Texas last quarter. I say fail they barely failed but still failed. That's according to Federal Election Commission, data from act blew the democratic fundraising platform and get this at least four other Democrats talked about as potential twenty twenty presidential candidates racked up at least two hundred thousand online donors or the past two years again, according to the data we've got two political reporters and a political editor here to help us put that in some contexts on the line. We have David ciders national political reporter has been reporting this week on better aerobics presidential ambitions. Hi, david. Hi, we have in the studio another national political reporter lane Schneider whose crunch the numbers and all that data highlighter. Hey, scott. And of course, as always. Senior politics editor Charlie Motassium is here. Hello, charlie. Hello, scott. Thank you so much for being here. Thanks for having me here. David I want to start with your reporting on Beto, aerobic. It seems like he's a candidate in waiting albeit one who is acting much differently than any candidate waiting. We've seen before or currently or and possibly in the future. Yeah. I think it's it's pretty bizarre. How he's going about this friends close to him Democrats who who are talking to him and to his advisors say that he's leaning towards running. And I think he probably will. But the way in which she's setting this up is certainly different. He's not responding to invitations from Iowa or New Hampshire. He's not sending a lot of signals. I think you know, he he is setting up this kind of much different narrative from other candidates that I think he thinks will benefit him. And it's it's almost kind of religious story that you can see them putting together, which is a, you know, he comes off a campaign that many Democrats size roic against Ted Cruz. Now, he goes into this. Period of a Hermitage, really where where he grows a beard, and he starts reflecting occasionally talking on Facebook because he did the other day about immigration, and then this road trip that that he may go on solo that I guess would count that'd be the odyssey. Right. He goes on some road trip of exploration for a couple of weeks. And then by the time he makes an announcement. It's the return to a public gathering at that point you'd expect him to probably shave. It's the first time the word Hermitage has ever appeared on very kissed. Got. We'll have to do a transplant, sir. But it may well be also odyssey. I'm loving. This is such an interesting story. But David I'm curious for your your thought about some of this is I mean what what's going into this it strikes? My like armchair analysis of this is that he's going through the process of the unlike every other presidential candidate who's trying to like pave the road that that they that they want to to to drive down when they launched their campaigns. It seems like the road is laid out for him. But he's like he's going through the process of deciding if he actually wants to be president or if he would want that. Yeah. Well, according to people who talk with him, he he does want to be president. And I think it is leaning towards running. It's it's almost a. I guess you could call it an aloofness in one sense that he thinks he can do it differently. Be a different kind of of candidate. And there are certainly a heck of a lot of pitfalls. You start to annoy democratic activists in Iowa New Hampshire. Maybe that doesn't serve you. So well. I think from his perspective the thinking is to do something different helps to separate him from a candidate field of six hundred twenty four Democrats and an to be fair. You know, these these these things he's doing we're interested in them and people are covering them. And so he has he has kind of capitalized. I think on this this element of the teas absolutely now Elena, I think one of the reasons that our work has ended up being such a big part of discussions in twenty twenty is how how how close his his Senate campaign came to beating Ted Cruz in Texas in two thousand eighteen but also the way in which he did that the massive online fundraising capacity. He reached the massive organizing potential that that that that he showed in the Senate campaign and could take national on. You wrote a story this weekend looking at at this through the lens of of online fundraising because we get actual. Measurable numbers on that. And you found some interesting things not just about Iraq. But about a handful of other people who could be top contenders in twenty twenty right? So I think that the online numbers that we saw come out of better rug Senate campaign is also part of factors into his timeline and factors into his ability to sit back, and wait, and sort of uses Seiders said the art of the TS to keep us interested, but isn't bound by the same rules that these other candidates are in needing to go out and raise a lot of money because he has this grassroots army that dumped what was it thirty eighty million dollars eighty million total and then something like thirty forty million in just a single quarter. I find Q three which again, that's an entire that's like three presidential races in one that he's able to pull off in that Texas energy. So he is he's not bound by this need to get out early and start fundraising and sort of the traditional ways because he has this army that's already built and. It was built recently. And I think that that is an important distinction because you know, these are also people who supported Bernie and Elizabeth Warren in previous lifetimes, but their newest shiniest object is Beddoe, and he can sort of more comfortably rely on him on them than even maybe warn or or Sanders. Could no well, well, a work was building this this online army for his his Senate run in two thousand eighteen there are there were others who were. Really going to great lengths to build up this this capacity to raise money online to organize online. Probably with more of an eye on on twenty twenty looking pass two thousand eighteen who who are the other top contenders who like a work of showing that can make money online. They can organize people online, and that that could be a big asset in over the next year, the democratic primary, I think the two most obvious examples through both FCC data and also conversations with their campaigns Kirsten gillibrand of New York and comma Harris of California so Kirstin ran for reelection two dozen eighteen but did not air a single TV ad throughout the entire race. Granted it was a pretty non-competitive race. But nonetheless, it's pretty striking when you don't air a single ad instead, she dumped half of her campaign budget into a digital firm that is they're trying to build this this army for her with small dollar donors. Same thing for Kamla who was not up for reelection this year, and yet still spent north of a million dollars just on Facebook ads trying to develop a following online. So that. So that those people it's sort of building the kindling and building sort of the the easy the firewood that you can then when you sort of hit a viral moment can light that match. And all of a sudden, you've just, you know, created this massive fire and that sort of. On the nerd cast. This week was fantastic. And then of course on top of them. You've got Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who as you said, Jill Brandon Harris went to great lengths to kind of build up and to transform their campaign operations into ones that had this tool in the box. Whereas Sanders in Warren came came on this as they were running for office in Paseo Sanders in two thousand sixteen Warren when she was first running for Senate in two thousand twelve Charlie this, this seems like it has the potential to radically transform aspects of the way a presidential primary goes, right? This this crowdfunding and not just the crowdfunding digital organizing and bringing people in from the get go from all across the country into into these movements. I mean, it already has. I mean, we've seen it the house and Senate level, but we also saw the presidential level in twenty sixteen with with Bernie Sanders. I mean, he's the one who really provided the blueprint for how it would work and it sustained him. Long past when the democratic establishment wanted him to leave because he just had so much money at enough money to keep going as long as he wanted to. But I think that's not the only money related aspect. That's going to transform the democratic primary. I think the other part is not just the logistical or mechanical side that we're talking about here in terms of raising online money and building the infrastructure to raise money and reach out and organiz. It's also the debate over campaign finance great point is going to transform the democratic primary because when did we ever have a presidential primary where people cared about campaign finance. I mean, you know, throughout my whole career at least I can't think of race. It was ever decided at any level on campaign. Find John McCain tried to make it happen. I guess, but it didn't work. I mean, it's just not something that in the past. And even now to a certain extent drives voters to the polls. It's not an animating issue yet. All of a sudden, it is, you know, up up there in the pantheon of issues that are rate very high in the democratic issue agenda, and you're already seeing that discussion take place in the. Democratic primary in terms of Democrats having with proposals to restrict the influence of money on the process and also the kind of holier than thou primary amongst the ca- amongst the campaigns about where do you get your money? You get online from idiot from small donors, we take corporate money, or will you will there be a super Pac and those kinds of questions we really didn't spend much time exploring in past presidential primaries. I think it's obvious that some of these candidates like Elizabeth Warren who came out swinging against self funders and came out against you know, anyone having any kind of super Pac money support that that she sees that as a wedge issue. She sees that as a way to stand out in the crowd in the same way that work see sort of his his pilgrimage into the desert is another way to stand out from the crowd. So I think that you know, it's sort of both of interest to the activists, but also sort of really well aligns with how she wants to stand out in this crowd. But I was really it was interesting talking to all kinds of digital consultants for the story because you know, there are some obviously some cautionary tales about relying too heavily on just small dollar donors because. The moment you lose momentum that money just disappears. So it's it's a it's maybe not as reliable of of a of a source at all times if you can't maintain momentum. And all these candidates are not going to be able to maintain momentum. And I do I think that the billion dollar question is what are these small dollar donors gonna do are they going to keep donating to one person? Or are they going to donate to five of them? Or are they going to wait? And nobody really knows that yet. It's really a great point because that means that for many of these campaigns. It's going to rely on them creating moments creating viral moments and flash points during the campaign, and that is going to take some. Some practice in some artificiality because you know, when they're flagging when they need the injection of cash, they're going to need to have their Matt Al moment, or they're the video the catches fire or whatever. Otherwise, they're going to be dead in the water. And that's a great. That's a great point. Because it's something that we need to sort of watch as the campaign progresses in cover that as closely as anything on the money agenda. Yeah. I mean, I think there's going to end up being a pressure for a lot of candidates Sanders didn't have to do this in two thousand sixteen but for to find a good hybrid, the that, you know, where they're getting enough from grassroots donors to fuel their campaigns. Also, like, not get hit over the head for being corporate funded or whatever but also getting enough from from bigger donors to also keep the lights on if if things aren't going as well online for for a few weeks, David I'm particularly interested in your, you know, the I your perspective on on Comal Harris's attempt to transform her campaign. Operation into into into one that that is fueled at least in big part by by online money because that having come up through California politics as the attorney general, and then and then run for Senate that that wasn't her model. But that's also really not a model that anyone can has has successfully been able to do in California politics before with speaking of, you know, big campaigns where you have to raise and spend a lot of money, right? You know, the entire model is different in California. So that is interesting to see California, try to change that the campaigning model is different to there's there's no retail politics in California. You just run TV ads, and and that will give it we'll see that in the in the primary, but at least in Iowa New Hampshire, and these these other early states, she has to change the way she campaigns. But I think as as you know, the this year started or even last year, she just spent a ton of money building Email lists and really trying to nurture that list. You saw. Her. I think be pretty judicious during the midterm elections about how often she would lend out that list, very protective of building it. And I think she has a pretty strong digital operation now to to be able to compete. You know, I I did want. I thought it was so interesting this idea that people have to maintain momentum with these lists. I guess the inverse of that is you talk to some of these lesser candidates or not top tier candidates who the idea of momentum for them means that they can hang around in the race longer. Because the the DEA that, you know, maybe not today, maybe not next month. But heck, maybe an October or November something could happen that would light a spark for them. It it lends this hope I think to a lot of candidates who might other was in a more traditional fundraising universe. Really see that. They don't have prospects right from the outset. But then, you know, if they get to a point where they hang around long enough that they catch fire like Rick Santorum did and in the twenty twelve. Republican primary or eventually Sanders did in in two thousand sixteen that if they have the infrastructure built at that moment. Then all the sudden, it's a, you know, all systems go. Yeah. Or even crazier than that. They look at you know, Aurora, and they say, well, we don't need to have any infrastructure. We don't need to have anything. We just needed to have a YouTube moment. And if it comes then I'll find somebody who knows how to TV ads. The other aspect of this though is to to have those moments to generate that kind of money, the the essential ingredient is authenticity. I mean, you just can't create a work. I think was able to to raise gobs of money was because there wasn't authenticity campaign. And it was the same thing about Bernie, no matter how you feel about Bernie or the Brady broS the campaign, or whatever there was an authenticity to his message that really fueled that campaign in fueled the online donations, and I don't know that that is a very easy thing to create. I agree with that. It's not a very easy thing to create the great thing about it, though is that it's it's easy to measure. And that's something we're going to be looking into a lot over over the next year as as a key indicator of who has momentum. And it's going to be an another kind of key piece along with pols, which are going to bounce around a lot, and and, you know, media mentions or or what have you that that we should all be keeping very close track of through twenty nineteen. That was excellent. Thank you so much for for being here. Elena. Thank you very much. David. Thanks. Jumped on the phone. Thank you. And they have to ask no wild kingdom moments this week. No dogs, tweeting songbird backyard. What's going on out there? Well, it's pretty calm day in in California. Charlie. Thank you as always. Thank you. And a big thank you to all of you our listeners for tuning in this week. Our producers Mickael Rodriguez. Dave Shaw is our executive producer are illustrator is Bill cookman if you like the nerd cast. And if you're listening on apple podcasts do us a favor and leave a review it helps new listeners find the show once again, thank you so much for tuning in. We'll talk to you again next week. Panoply.

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