President Donald Trump is taking the advice of his Fox cabinet and will declare a national emergency to obtain additional funding for his border wall. The right-wing network’s hosts, several of whom also play key roles as unofficial presidential advisers, have been urging him to take this step for the last month.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced during a Thursday afternoon Senate floor speech that Trump intended to both sign the compromise legislation to fund the government -- which includes $1.375 billion in wall funding -- and use a national emergency to obtain more money. The White House subsequently confirmed that plan.
That’s exactly what Sean Hannity suggested that Trump do on the Fox host's Tuesday night program. Hannity said that he was “not as concerned as some other conservatives if the president signs the bill,” as long as Trump “simultaneously” declared a national emergency. “This is the time. That is a necessity. And the president, I think I know him very well, telegraphed that very thing just today.”
Hannity, who has a close relationship with the president and frequently talks to him on the phone, had previously denounced the government funding bill and threatened any Republican legislator who supported it. But he changed his tune, perhaps because of a call he reportedly received from the White House aimed at “tamping down criticism on the right.” The result appears to be that Trump will be doing the very thing Hannity said on air he should do.
Hannity was one of several Fox hosts who had sharply criticized the spending bill for providing insufficient support for the president’s long-sought wall. The president will apparently ameliorate that concern by using the national emergency declaration to try to divert additional funding to wall construction.
This is the culmination of a month-long struggle between Senate Republican leaders like McConnell and Fox hosts like Hannity and Lou Dobbs. Since Trump first floated the idea of a national emergency declaration in early January, McConnell and his allies have been trying to persuade the president not to go through with it, citing potential legal struggles and the possibility of a congressional resolution disapproving the declaration. Meanwhile, Hannity and Dobbs, whose Fox programs the president watches regularly and whom the president frequently consults for political advice, have been urging him to do it on a nearly nightly basis.
This is the same dispute we saw in December, as Republican congressional leadership and the president’s Fox allies struggled for the president’s attention over whether he should partially shut down the government. Then, as now, the Fox cabinet triumphed.
Right-wing infotainers can bend the ear of the president of the United States and drastically shift federal government policy according to their whims. They have this outsized influence because Trump consumes hours of television each day and is desperate to receive constant validation from the people he watches. We've reached a point where Fox is all but running the country.