So let’s see how hard he pushes for this and in the process we’ll find out if lawmakers are prepared to take one more step down the road to authoritarianism by allowing Trump to start using “national security” as an excuse for anything and everything.
That’s what we said late last month when the Washington Post reported that Trump is apparently considering whether to try and get the Pentagon to pay for that “tremendous”, “big league”, “beautiful”, “see-through”, monument to xenophobia he wants to build along the southern border.
The point, in case it isn’t clear enough there, is that this is what autocrats do – they start using “national security” to justify things that are absurd on their face. As usual, it’s not clear that Trump truly appreciates how dictatorial he sometimes comes across. While it’s certainly true that he admires dictators like Putin and Erdogan and Duterte and while he once accidentally quoted Mussolini, he’s such a dolt that one doubts he has the mental capacity to purposefully transform America into an autocracy. Rather, he seems to be stumbling down the road to becoming an autocrat by virtue of his narcissism, sense of entitlement and naïvety about separation of powers, and he’s dragging us all along with him.
Well in yet another testament to the notion that “national security” is going to be the excuse for everything he wants to get done because it’s often easier to expedite shit when you couch things in terms of “threats” and “emergencies”, Treasury is considering the use of an emergency law to punish China for IP theft. You probably heard about this yesterday and it’s characteristically alarming for what it says about the lengths Trump is willing to go to in order to push his populist agenda. Here’s Bloomberg:
The U.S. government is reviewing the possible use of a law known as the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, said Heath Tarbert, an assistant secretary in the agency’s international affairs office. Under the 1977 IEEPA law, President Donald Trump could declare a national emergency in response to an “unusual and extraordinary threat,” allowing him to block transactions and seize assets.
When was the last time you were walking down the street and said to yourself “my God, this China IP theft is an unusual and extraordinary threat!”? Yeah, never. Bloomberg goes on to note the following:
While investors have so far focused on Trump’s plan to impose tariffs on Chinese imports, new restrictions could deepen a slowdown in Chinese investments in the U.S. since Trump took office, hurting the ability of American companies to raise capital and holding down valuations.
And see there it is (again). Trump doesn’t care about American companies or about the American economy. Trump only cares about checking boxes on the list of promises he made while he was shrieking on the campaign trail. Amusingly, it’s not even clear that he would care about that if it weren’t for the fact that if he fails to deliver, it would make him look weak.
Speaking of “weak”, that’s what China thinks this shows. Overnight, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said restrictions on China’s investments in U.S. tech would represent “an improper use of national security considerations to limit the country’s access to American markets.”
“The U.S. is thinking and acting like a bully — only it can have high tech and others cannot,” Hua said, before suggesting that the “national security” excuse is an absurdly transparent ruse:
With regard to the high tech restrictions, they are citing the reason of national security, but their motivation is protectionism. Is the U.S. really that fragile?
U.S. is asking China to open its markets but creates obstacles for China, contravening principles of equality, fairness and reciprocity.
Right. But hey, what do you expect, right?