WASHINGTON – Soon after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to secure funding for a wall along the southern border, a number of lawsuits were announced that would challenge the order.
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.
Within hours, the American Civil Liberties Union, the state of California and a number of political groups announced plans to file lawsuits challenging 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 ACLU 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.”
Two separate lawsuits were also planned from the liberal watchdog group Public Citizen and the Center for Biological Diversity.
Public Citizen said it would argue Trump lacks the authority to declare an emergency when “there’s no emergency,” Allison Zieve, director of litigation for the organization, said to USA TODAY. The Center for Biological Diversity said they also would focus on its constitutionality and argued against the wall due to its effects a wall has 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