Quick Takes: Trump Wants the U.S. Military to Pay For His Wall

A roundup of news that caught my eye today.

* Over and over again, Trump has promised that Mexico would pay for his wall. Behind the scenes, here’s what he’s doing:

Trump, who told advisers he was spurned in a large spending bill last week when lawmakers appropriated only $1.6 billion for the border wall, has begun suggesting that the Pentagon could fund the sprawling construction, citing a “national security” risk.

After floating the notion to several advisers last week, he told House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) that the military should pay for the wall, according to three people familiar with the meeting Wednesday in the White House residence.

* Steve Benen did a good job of documenting all of the times Republicans unsuccessfully attempted to label something “Obama’s Katrina.” But lost in all of the other scandals is the fact that Trump has already had his own Katrina…in Puerto Rico. Danny Vinik writes: “How Trump favored Texas over Puerto Rico: A POLITICO investigation shows a persistent double standard in the president’s handling of relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria.” Here are the numbers:

Within six days of Hurricane Harvey, U.S. Northern Command had deployed 73 helicopters over Houston, which are critical for saving victims and delivering emergency supplies. It took at least three weeks after Maria before it had more than 70 helicopters flying above Puerto Rico.

Nine days after the respective hurricanes, FEMA had approved $141.8 million in individual assistance to Harvey victims, versus just $6.2 million for Maria victims.

During the first nine days after Harvey, FEMA provided 5.1 million meals, 4.5 million liters of water and over 20,000 tarps to Houston; but in the same period, it delivered just 1.6 million meals, 2.8 million liters of water and roughly 5,000 tarps to Puerto Rico.

Nine days after Harvey, the federal government had 30,000 personnel in the Houston region, compared with 10,000 at the same point after Maria.

It took just 10 days for FEMA to approve permanent disaster work for Texas, compared with 43 days for Puerto Rico.

Seventy-eight days after each hurricane, FEMA had approved 39 percent of federal applications for relief from victims of Harvey, versus 28 percent for Maria.

* This announcement has gotten a lot of attention today:

The Commerce Department said Monday evening that the 2020 census will include a question on citizenship, despite the strong objections of Democrats…

The Department of Justice under Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reportedly pushed for inclusion of the question, arguing that it would allow the department to better enforce the Voting Rights Act.

Speaking on behalf of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, here is Eric Holder’s statement:

“We will litigate to stop the Administration from moving forward with this irresponsible decision. The addition of a citizenship question to the census questionnaire is a direct attack on our representative democracy. This question will lower the response rate and undermine the accuracy of the count, leading to devastating, decade-long impacts on voting rights and the distribution of billions of dollars in federal funding. By asking this question, states will not have accurate representation and individuals in impacted communities will lose out on state and federal funding for health care, education, and infrastructure.

“Contrary to the Administration’s stated rationale, asking the citizenship question on the census is not critical to enforcing the Voting Rights Act. As attorney general, I did not—nor did my predecessors—request the addition of a citizenship question to the decennial census to enforce the VRA. We did not need to: Data derived from the existing census process was perfectly adequate for any voting litigation that arose.

“Make no mistake – this decision is motivated purely by politics. In deciding to add this question without even testing its effects, the Administration is departing from decades of census policy and ignoring the warnings of census experts.”

* In running for the Senate, Mitt Romney is attempting to out-Trump Trump.

“For instance, I’m a deficit hawk,” Romney said. “That makes me more conservative than a lot of Republicans and a lot of Democrats. I’m also more of a hawk on immigration than even the president. My view was these DACA kids shouldn’t all be allowed to stay in the country legally.”

A lot of people have forgotten this when it comes to the 2012 presidential race:

* For those who have suggested that #MarchForOurLives didn’t specify action items for gun reform, here they are:

1. Fund more gun violence research. We actually made a step in this direction when President Trump signed the 2018 budget, which clarifies that the 1996 Dickey Amendment doesn’t prohibit the CDC from conducting gun research.
2. Unleash the ATF. Let them store their background-check records on a computer, for example.
3. Universal background checks. In theory, everyone is in favor of this. In theory.
4. High-capacity magazine ban. This has long been my favorite. MFOL is calling for a 10-round limit. I’d make it six, myself.
5. Assault weapons ban. The gun folks are right when they say it’s tricky to define “assault weapon,” but it’s not actually impossible.

* Finally, the legendary Joan Baez has released a song titled, “The President Sang Amazing Grace.” Jeff Scher, who created the video, said this about the moment captured by the song:

“[When Barack] Obama sang ‘Amazing Grace’ at the service for the Charleston Church shooting victims, it was deeply moving,” Scher told The Atlantic. “Somehow Obama, with his humble singing voice, turned grief into grace. With humility, compassion, and a two-hundred-year-old hymn, he made us feel that the evil deeds of a sick individual could not shake the bonds of our common humanity.” For Scher, Obama’s performance expressed the emotions of “what it was like to be an American on that day— to have a great leader lift us up from despair.”

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.