What should be Trump's focus in 2019?

CNN analyst Samantha Vinograd explains what steps President Donald Trump can take with the partial government shutdown and border security to start national security off right in 2019.

Posted: Jan 1, 2019 2:32 PM
Updated: Jan 1, 2019 2:50 PM

Every week, I offer a glimpse of the kind of intelligence assessments that are likely to come across the desk of the President of the United States, modeled on the President's Daily Briefing, or PDB, which the director of national intelligence prepares for the President almost daily.

Here's this week's briefing:

With the government shutdown and debates over border security funding rolling into the new year, the Trump administration's proposed solutions to end the impasse -- including cutting off foreign assistance to Central American countries and closing the southern border -- could pose a great risk to the United States. In fact, if these solutions are enacted, illegal immigration flows would likely increase, while the costs to American citizens would, too.

Working with security professionals to identify the most efficient ways to secure the southern border, we assess that following through on presidential policy promises -- even those made via tweets -- would do a disservice to the country.

Invest wisely

A wall won't stem illegal immigration -- even outgoing Chief of Staff John Kelly agrees with this -- but investing US dollars wisely can. Even without a government shutdown, national security resources are finite. But, as the national security team reassembles in 2019 and reviews how and where to use its assets, one of the best investments it can make is spending more, not less, on US foreign assistance to Central America.

Your tweets threatening to cut off aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala -- the origin countries of an increasing number of undocumented immigrants -- has likely been met with both skepticism and fear, including from members of your own cabinet. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence have touted ongoing foreign assistance to Central America, including to the Northern Triangle countries, as key to addressing illegal immigration.

After all, the State Department's foreign assistance programs in Central America are about protecting "American citizens by addressing the security, governance, and economic drivers of illegal immigration and illicit trafficking." In fact, according to this State Department's analysis, we assess that cutting off funding would make American citizens less safe.

Desperation forces many Central American migrants to flee their homes and make the dangerous journey toward our southern border. Nearly 30% of Hondurans live in poverty, half of all children under 5 in Guatemala are chronically malnourished and El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.

These are endemic problems that need long-term solutions. Border wall Band Aids will not reduce these root drivers of illegal immigration, but US foreign assistance is trying to.

The American dollars that are currently spent on counter-narcotics programs in Guatemala, local governance in Honduras or crime and violence prevention in El Salvador aren't just about helping Guatemalans, Honduran or El Salvadorans in need. They ultimately help the US because they can help create conditions such that citizens of these countries don't feel the need to leave. US foreign assistance can directly decrease illegal immigration if it helps improve conditions in the Northern Triangle.

Concurrently, they also help decrease criminal activity that travels north to our border. American funding has supported efforts to counter gangs like MS-13 throughout the region and to stop illegal drugs from entering the US.

And, despite your statement that these countries do nothing to help us combat illegal immigration, members of your team disagree. Through foreign assistance and ongoing relationships, these countries have helped us counter illegal immigration and gang violence -- Pence, in fact, publicly thanked them for their efforts earlier this year.

By directing foreign assistance to Northern Triangle countries, we aren't throwing money away. We are making an investment that curbs the flow of illegal immigration and criminal activity from Central America.

Secure, don't close, the southern border

It is unclear what legal authority -- or resources -- the administration could use to close the southern border. If this fantasy became a reality, it would have seriously adverse consequences for Americans.

1.5 million American citizens live in Mexico, and many cross the southern border every day. Any border shutdown would restrict their ability to go to work, attend school, access medical care -- and more.

Moreover, areas near the border depend on legal laborers that cross the border every day. If it closes, and they lose key members of their workforce, American businesses may have to shut down or hire more expensive or less qualified personnel.

Plus, NAFTA, which is still in effect (Congress has not yet approved its successor, the US Mexico Canada Free Trade Agreement), restricts the President's ability to cut off trade with Mexico unless there's a national security reason for doing so. Trying to argue that mostly unarmed men, women and children fleeing the Northern Triangle pose such a dire national security threat would be a hard sell to Mexico City (and likely to many others).

And shutting down the border would be expensive for the US economy. It could cost us millions of dollars in commerce each day. US soybean exports to China suffered this year as part of the US-China trade war. But Mexico is the second-largest export market for US soybeans. Shutting down the border would directly hit soybean farmers again, when they've already suffered losses this year.

Plus, if the border shuts down, manufacturers who import key parts for their products from Mexico would be hit hard, including automobile manufacturers who have benefited from an integrated supply chain with Mexico. Car prices could increase in the US along with costs for other goods that depend on incorporating parts from Mexico.

Other products that we import from Mexico, including fruits and vegetables that American consumers depend on, could also get more expensive as stores are forced to buy them from more costly sources.

Any way you cut it, closing the border would cost Americans a lot. A secure border, however, would continue to provide Americans with myriad benefits in the new year.

Devoting time and attention to applying technology, intelligence, construction and law enforcement resources to identifying and mitigating exploitable entry points should be the President's leading New Year's resolution.

Terre Haute
Few Clouds
86° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 89°
Robinson
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 91°
Indianapolis
Broken Clouds
86° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 87°
Rockville
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 84°
Casey
Clear
85° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 89°
Brazil
Few Clouds
86° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 89°
Marshall
Few Clouds
86° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 89°
Hot Weather with Evening Storms
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 156638

Reported Deaths: 7419
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook961864741
Lake10464429
DuPage9810491
Kane8151285
Will7382326
Winnebago3202106
St. Clair2386145
McHenry2309103
Kankakee144366
Madison128571
Rock Island123230
Unassigned1174201
Kendall106821
Champaign105717
Peoria71030
DeKalb65722
Boone64021
Sangamon55333
Jackson35919
McLean33415
Randolph3277
Ogle3194
Stephenson2876
LaSalle28017
Macon25422
Clinton25216
Whiteside22015
Union21419
Adams2041
Coles20217
Grundy1965
Tazewell1918
Iroquois1765
Knox1750
Monroe17013
Williamson1644
Warren1500
Cass14010
Morgan1344
Henry1221
Jefferson11717
Lee1092
McDonough10815
Vermilion902
Montgomery892
Pulaski850
Marion790
Macoupin723
Douglas610
Perry611
Jo Daviess551
Livingston552
Woodford532
Christian524
Franklin500
Jasper477
Jersey451
Bureau432
Ford421
Clark410
Effingham341
Menard320
Cumberland300
Mercer290
Johnson280
Mason280
Fayette263
Alexander250
Moultrie250
Washington250
Logan240
Edgar230
Wabash230
Bond222
Carroll212
Hancock211
Piatt210
Shelby211
Wayne211
Crawford200
De Witt180
Fulton170
Saline170
Massac160
Schuyler140
Lawrence130
Marshall130
Greene110
Brown100
White100
Richland90
Clay80
Henderson80
Pike80
Gallatin70
Hamilton70
Stark60
Edwards50
Out of IL30
Calhoun20
Hardin10
Pope10
Putnam10
Scott10

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 52685

Reported Deaths: 2775
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion12192697
Lake5764251
Elkhart372061
Allen2988135
St. Joseph223570
Hamilton1779101
Cass16519
Hendricks1482100
Johnson1366118
Porter86738
Vanderburgh8586
Tippecanoe79510
Clark72844
Madison68564
LaPorte63928
Howard61758
Bartholomew60945
Kosciusko5874
Marshall57412
Noble52628
Boone49744
LaGrange49110
Delaware48452
Jackson4813
Hancock47236
Shelby46225
Floyd42544
Monroe37528
Dubois3447
Morgan34431
Grant33426
Henry30618
Montgomery29720
Clinton2913
White28110
Warrick27929
Dearborn27723
Vigo2638
Decatur25732
Lawrence25325
Harrison22022
Greene20032
Miami1972
Jennings18012
Putnam1758
DeKalb1714
Scott1669
Wayne1656
Perry16010
Daviess15117
Jasper1422
Orange14023
Steuben1403
Ripley1357
Gibson1332
Franklin1288
Wabash1203
Carroll1142
Starke1103
Fayette1087
Whitley1086
Newton10110
Huntington932
Jefferson932
Wells841
Randolph814
Fulton791
Knox730
Jay720
Posey680
Washington681
Pulaski661
Clay655
Rush633
Spencer621
Owen541
Sullivan541
Benton510
Adams491
Brown461
Blackford412
Fountain382
Tipton361
Crawford350
Switzerland320
Parke280
Martin260
Ohio230
Vermillion200
Warren161
Pike150
Union150
Unassigned0193