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16 states sue Trump over ‘unconstitutional’ national emergency order

President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks to the Venezuelan American community at the Florida International University Ocean Bank Convocation Center Monday, Feb. 18, 2019 in Miami, Fla. (Shealah Craighead/White House)
February 19, 2019

Attorneys General from 16 states are have filed lawsuits against President Donald Trump and are fighting his national emergency declaration last week to build the southern border wall.

The lawsuits were filed Monday in response to Trump’s national emergency order, which uses powers afforded by the National Emergencies Act to determine what issues to declare an emergency, and tap into unused funds for a response, CNN reported 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,” said Xavier Becerra, the California Attorney General who is leading the lawsuit efforts.

Becerra and others assert that Trump’s emergency order causes potential harm to the states because it diverts money from previously approved projects, thus taking away funds that were already allocated to the states for other things.

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“If the President is essentially stealing money that’s been allocated to go to the various states for various purposes but no longer will, we’re being harmed, our people are being harmed,” he said.

Trump responded Tuesday morning in a tweet that said, “As I predicted, 16 states, led mostly by Open Border Democrats and the Radical Left, have filed a lawsuit in, of course, the 9th Circuit! California, the state that has wasted billions of dollars on their out of control Fast Train, with no hope of completion, seems in charge!”

Aside from California, the lawsuit names Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Virginia.

Critics also assert that Trump is using the emergency order to bypass Congress.

“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 – particularly a permanent, large-scale domestic project such as this – against congressional will. This is obviously improper,” said Dror Ladin, an attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project.

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Trump deployed the national emergency order after Congress failed to agree on a bill that included the $5.7 billion in funds that he had steadfastly requested for construction of a wall on the southern border.

Instead, Congress passed a funding bill that included just $1.375 billion for border security, which permitted 55 miles of fencing. The move was seen as a bipartisan compromise, but Trump declared he was “extremely unhappy” with the proposal.

Trump’s order will draw some $6.5 billion from federal departments and direct those funds for southern border security. At least $3.6 billion will come from the Pentagon’s military construction funds and $2.5 billion from military counternarcotics programs, as well as $600 million from an asset forfeiture program in the Treasury Department.

Lawsuits against Trump over his order are expected to be a difficult process since his emergency order is in line with the authorizations of the National Emergencies Act. However, Congressional Democrats could spark a movement for a joint resolution that – if passed – could terminate the emergency order.