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Lawsuits & Litigation

California and Allies to Sue Trump Over National Emergency

— February 18, 2019

Pointing to President Trump’s own remarks, California A.G. Xavier Becerra is filing a lawsuit against the White House with a dozen other attorneys general.

California and a dozen other states are suing the White House over President Donald Trump’s declaration of national emergency.

“We should be filing sometime today,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Monday. “We’re going to try to halt the President from violating the Constitution, the separation of powers, from stealing money from Americans and states that has been allocated by Congress, lawfully.”

According to Becerra, twelve other states are planning to join the lawsuit.

CNN notes that Becerra’s announcement isn’t novel. The attorneys general move against the national emergency declaration has been preceded by a wave of other lawsuits.

Among the plaintiffs targeting the White House are the Center for Biological Diversity, Border Network for Human Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The collection of organizations, reports CNN, filed lawsuits over the weekend. And most claim that Trump’s declaration is fundamentally different from those invoked by past presidents.

Trump’s practically admitted as much, saying he didn’t “need an emergency.

“I could do the wall over a longer period of time,” Trump said Friday. “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.”

Rather, the announcement serves a political purpose—it allows the president to pull funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border even after Congress denied his request.

“The Constitution assigns Congress the power of the purse, and no prior president has ever tried to use emergency powers to fund a chosen project—particular a permanent, large-scale domestic project such as this—against congressional will,” ACLU staff attorney Dror Ladin said.

“This is obviously improper,” he added.

In order to construct his long-promised fence, Trump would strip billions of dollars from military construction projects, counter-narcotics funds and the Department of Treasury.

CNN notes that the National Emergencies Act allows the President to declare a national emergency. In doing so, he or she is entitled to finances already earmarked for expenditure elsewhere. And the President has wide discretion in deciding what constitutes an emergency, meaning it may be difficult for states and non-government organizations to challenge an emergency on the basis of its being.

“The president admitted that there’s not a basis for the declaration,” Becerra told MSNBC. “He’s admitted there’s no crisis at the border. He’s now trying to rob funds that were allocated by Congress legally to the various states and people of our states.”

In his declaration of national emergency last week, President Trump anticipated a flurry of lawsuits and potential rulings by courts like the 9th Circuit. His rationale—that a fence would keep drugs and illegal immigrants out of the United States—was defended by White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller over the weekend.

Miller, says the Washington Post, told “Fox News Sunday” that there’s an “increasing number of people” crossing the border, as well as a “huge increase in drug deaths” since the end of the George W. Bush administration.

The Post notes that Miller seemed somewhat evasive when program host Chris Wallace cited government statistics showing that attempted border crossings are at their lowest levels in nearly four decades.

“You don’t know what you don’t know, and you don’t catch what you don’t catch,” Miller said. “But as a matter of national security, you cannot have uncontrolled, unsecured areas of the border where people can pour in undetected.”

However, not everyone in the Republican Party is as sure as Trump and Miller. The Post claims that some conservatives are upset with the declaration—among them, Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), the only Republican representative along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Hurd echoed the fears of his colleagues, telling “Face the Nation” that misuse of emergency powers could set a precedent for future Democratic presidents.

“Our government wasn’t designed to operate by national emergency,” Hurd said. “We’re almost in uncharted territory.”

Democrats, meanwhile, are busy drafting a bill to shut down Trump’s emergency before it can kick into effect.

The President has indicated that he’ll use his veto powers if Congress musters enough votes to void his power play.


California AG Becerra says states to sue over Trump’s national emergency declaration

California AG: At least 13 states suing over Trump’s national emergency

Maine among states suing over Trump’s border ‘emergency’

Several states to join California lawsuit against Trump’s border emergency declaration

White House defends Trump’s emergency declaration as lawsuits and political battles mount

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