Trump's border power play is a push for civil war

Donald Trump wants Congress to refuse to do any deal until he can win and create the "PERFECT" border

By Heather Digby Parton


Published January 26, 2024 9:27AM (EST)

Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Donald Trump is having a rolling hissy fit that's escalating by the day. From courtrooms to rallies to incoherent interviews, his behavior is making it clear the pressure is getting to him and he's coming unglued. Ever since he realized that Nikki Haley is not going to be a good little girl and quit the race on his time table, Trump has been beside himself.

Trump was so angry on Wednesday that he fired off a post on his Truth Social platform threatening to blackball any Haley donor who continues to give "Birdbrain" any money, declaring "from this moment forth, will be permanently barred from the MAGA camp." (Haley responded with a fundraising pitch and reportedly took in over a million dollars.) I doubt very seriously that Trump will be turning away money from anyone —- he's never left a penny on the sidewalk. But it was a gangster move in keeping with his ritual humiliation of Senator Tim Scott on the stage at his victory speech in New Hampshire, intended to send a message that he's their daddy and nobody should forget it. He's not being subtle.

The putative GOP nominee for president is exhorting Republican governors to send the National Guard to Texas to fight the federal government.

In another attempt to run Haley out of the race as quickly as possible, on Thursday a draft memo from Trump henchman David Bossie, the former president's eyes and ears in the Republican National Committee, was circulated proposing that the RNC officially declare Trump the "presumptive nominee." That idea was quickly quashed and even though he was probably behind it, Trump issued a Truth Social statement saying that he preferred they not do it for the sake of "party unity." But he did express his gratitude for the "respect" the Committee showed him. He sounds more like a mob boss every day.

Trump knows that Haley isn't going to win the nomination unless something catastrophic happens to change things so it's reasonable to ask why he is so agitated and desperate to get her out of the race. Why not just ignore her and carry on with his usual blather about shower heads and windmills and tales of his former glory? I think he's very, very unnerved by the fact that Haley penetrates the right-wing bubble and what she's saying about him —- that he's a loser and he's losing it —- which are the worst charges he can imagine being leveled at him. (In his mind it's far worse than being found liable for rape or espionage or sedition.) She's appearing before Republican voters and some of them may not have heard this before so he really needs for her to shut up and go home. So far, she doesn't seem inclined to do that so the feud will escalate until she does. He's not going to let it go. An uppity woman refusing to bend the knee when he tells her to is something he simply cannot abide.

He's flexing his muscles in Washington with much better results. It was only a matter of time before he openly asserted himself into the arduous negotiations over the funding bill for Ukraine and the border and needless to say he did so in the most destructive and self-serving manner possible. Mitch McConnell reportedly told his caucus this week that "the politics have changed" and Trump doesn't want any legislative action on the border in order to keep it as an election issue for him and it wouldn't be prudent to "undermine" him. Some senators said they didn't hear it exactly that way but it's pretty clear that's exactly what happened.

Trump himself confirmed his wishes on Truth Social last night:


Nobody knows what he means by the country having to "close up" for a while if there is no agreement but you can bet that whatever it is, it will be catastrophic. It's clear that he wants Congress to refuse to do any deal until he can win and create the "PERFECT" border.

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There are reports that this negotiation is not actually dead and there are some Republicans besides Utah's Mitt Romney on the record saying that they are still in favor of passing something since Biden has made such big concessions that they don't think they'll ever get another chance to implement. This news did not seem to persuade the hardcore Trumpers in Congress, however. They don't care about the reality of the border as much as they care about having the issue of the border to express their solidarity with Donald Trump and their racist base. Any real reforms would be counter-productive.

And since they are totally shameless, the utter hypocrisy of standing before the American people and bellowing about the crisis on the border in the same breath that they say they don't want to give Biden a "win" so they'll refuse to take action for the next year is not an impediment.

There is a new dynamic in MAGA world that may shake things up in ways we can't anticipate. This border crisis is no longer just a matter of Washington's dysfunction. 25 Republican governors have come together in solidarity behind Governor Greg Abbott of Texas in his defiance of a Supreme Court order to allow the Border Patrol to remove razor wire the state has installed to maim and kill any migrants who try to cross the border. Declaring that they have a right to defend themselves from an "invasion" (based upon a fatuous reading of the Constitution), Texas is refusing to comply. Essentially, Abbott and the other GOP governors are calling for "nullification" a concept we thought we had settled with the Civil War. Apparently, these states have decided that they might just want another one.

Here's the governor of Oklahoma, Kevin Stitt, openly discussing a violent confrontation with the federal government.

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Dear Leader is right there with them:


You read that right. The putative GOP nominee for president is exhorting Republican governors to send the National Guard to Texas to fight the federal government. It's unclear how this is going to work out but we know now that these Governors are all on board the Trump train and eager to help him exacerbate the problem for his political gain. The GOP House and Senate could only dream of being this coordinated. The new power center of the MAGA movement is in the states. So if you're getting a feeling of deja vu, you're not alone. We've been here before.

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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Commentary Constitutional Crisis Donald Trump Greg Abbott Mitch Mcconell Mitt Romney Texas