WASHINGTON – At least two lawsuits have been filed in response to President Donald Trump on Friday declaring a national emergency to secure funding for a wall along the southern border with Mexico.
The filings are expected to be part of a flurry of legal challenges to the constitutionality of Trump’s decision.
The national emergency and other measures will free up $8 billion – far more than the $5.7 billion he initially demanded – to free up funding for 234 miles of bollard wall, the White House said.
But within hours after Trump signed off on declaring an emergency, the liberal watchdog group Public Citizen filed a federal lawsuit late Friday in the District of Columbia. The suit also includes three Texas landowners who are located along the southern border, who were told their property would be seized for a border wall if money was allocated to the project this year.
The lawsuit argues that Trump exceeded his powers by declaring an emergency and was a clear violation of the separation of powers.
“The president has no inherent authority to declare emergencies to override appropriations laws and other laws enacted by Congress; his emergency powers are defined and limited by statute,” the lawsuit states. “Because no national emergency exists with respect to immigration across the southern border, the President’s Declaration exceeds the limited authority delegated to the President.”
Another federal lawsuit was filed in D.C. by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a prominent government watchdog group, but the litigation targets the Justice Department and revolves around a Freedom of Information Act request regarding the emergency order.
The organization contends that Trump’s administration failed to show the legal authority of his national declaration by refusing to cough over documents requested that included communications, including legal opinions, from the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense over whether Trump had the authority to declare an emergency to build a wall.
“Americans deserve to know the true basis for President Trump’s unprecedented decision to enact emergency powers to pay for a border wall,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement. “We’re suing because the government has so far failed to produce the requested documents or provide an explanation for their delay.”
But those two suits are just the beginning. A barrage of organizations and officials have already pledged to fight this in court.
Political organizations and even the state of California were lining up challenges they intend to file in court to challenge Trump, something the president said he was prepared for. Trump said he expects the legal battle to make its way through the courts and end up at the Supreme Court, where he said he hopes his administration will get a “fair shake.”
The American Civil Liberties Union said on Friday that it planned to file a lawsuit early next week challenging Trump’s use of his executive powers to go around Congress. The organization, which has challenged the Trump administration on many legal fronts over the last two years, argued Trump’s order violates the Consitution.
The organization said no other president has attempted to use emergency powers to fund a project and pointed to remarks Trump made from the White House in announcing the order, where he said of his emergency declaration: “I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster.”
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“By the president’s very own admission in the Rose Garden, there is no national emergency. He just grew impatient and frustrated with Congress, and decided to move along his promise for a border wall ‘faster,'” ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said in a statement. “This is a patently illegal power grab that hurts American communities and flouts the checks and balances that are hallmarks of our democracy.”
Another lawsuit was also planned from the Center for Biological Diversity, which said would also focus on its constitutionality and argue against the wall due to its effects on the environment and animals.
“The Center will defend the borderlands and fight Trump’s illegal action in court,” said Laiken Jordahl, borderlands campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “He’s destroying wildlife and communities along the border and assaulting democracy in the process. Trump is not above the law.”
In California, the governor and attorney general – both Democrats – held a news conference in Sacramento also vowing to file a lawsuit to block Trump.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said he’s been trying to work with federal agencies to combat the growing threat of drugs crossing into California. But he said a border wall is not the solution since most of those drugs enter through ports of entry and construction of a wall would take away funding from the very law enforcement agencies that have been successfully working to combat drug trafficking.
Newsom called Trump’s wall a “vanity project,” a “monument to stupidity” and a blatant political ploy that he engineered after being “embarrassed” by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the recent government shutdown.
“I don’t want to be a sparring partner with President Trump, we want to be a working partner, but he makes it all but impossible when he plays these games and manufactures a crisis and creates the conditions where we have no other choice but to sue the administration,” Newsom said. “Donald Trump, we’ll see you in court.”
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said he’s coordinating with other attorneys general around the country to read through the emergency declaration and prepare a federal lawsuit. He said the president has not presented a convincing case that the southern border represents a crisis because border crossings are at historic lows.
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“He has the power to declare a national emergency, but this is not 9-11, this is not the Iran hostage crisis of 1979,” Becerra said. “This is a president showing his disdain for the rule of law and our U.S. Constitution.”
Because of that, Becerra said Trump is clearly exceeding his constitutional authority by ignoring the appropriations made by Congress and diverting funds to his border wall. He also pointed to Trump’s comments during his news conference at the White House Friday morning.
“President Trump got one thing right this morning about his declaration when he said, ‘I didn’t have to do this.’ He’s right, he didn’t have to do this. In fact, he can’t do this because the U.S. Constitution gives Congress, not the president, the power to direct dollars,” Becerra said.
On Thursday, before Trump even laid out the details of his order, Protect Democracy and the Niskanen Center said they were already preparing lawsuits to challenge the president’s emergency order.
The groups said they would represent El Paso County in Texas along with the Border Network for Human Rights in a lawsuit against the administration.
Contributing: John Fritze, David Jackson