Donald Trump had been heading fast in an ugly direction all day on Friday, so it wasn’t particularly surprising that by the time midnight rolled around, he’d end up staging one of his most insane meltdowns to date. We just didn’t expect Trump to threaten to invoke magical powers during the course of that meltdown.
At one point on Friday, Donald Trump announced that several major U.S. companies were “hereby ordered” to stop doing business with China, as part of Trump’s ongoing and escalating failed trade war. Everyone then proceeded to spend the day pointing out that Trump simply cannot do that. So then at midnight, Trump decided to spell out precisely how he was going to magically make that happen.
Trump ended up posting this insane tweet: “For all of the Fake News Reporters that don’t have a clue as to what the law is relative to Presidential powers, China, etc., try looking at the Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977. Case closed!” Here’s the thing. That act does exist – but Trump isn’t within a million miles of having enough political muscle to pull off trying to invoke it. Considering how costly it would be to his own Republican campaign donors, Trump won’t even try to invoke this, because if he did, he’d be effectively ending his 2020 campaign.
The thing is, the last time Donald Trump threatened to declare a national emergency so he could start using magic powers to build a border wall, large chunks of the mainstream media gave credibility to the laugh-out-loud notion that he could actually do that. Sure enough, there’s still no wall, because nothing works that way.
But if the media gives credibility to the notion that Trump could actually force U.S. companies to withdraw from China, it could end up being the kind of narrative change that Trump is desperately seeking. We can’t stress enough that Trump simply does not have magic powers. At this point Trump is so crippled, he barely even has standard presidential powers. You’ll only hand him leverage if you start obsessing over the imaginary notion of Trump magically invoking the Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977 to do anything.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report