Donald Trump has blasted the 16 states that are suing him over his declaration of a national emergency to build his border wall, claiming they are led by “Open Border Democrats and the Radical Left”.
The President was particularly scathing about California’s lead role in the legal challenge, claiming the state had “wasted billions of dollars on their out of control Fast Train”, a project recently scaled back after costs ballooned to $US77 billion.
He also noted that he had predicted last week that the action would be brought in the federal judiciary’s 9th Circuit, which has a history of ruling against the administration
Mr Trump intends to divert $US8 billion from counter-drug and military funds to build his US-Mexico border wall, after Congress refused to agree to more than $US1.4 billion.
Presidents have declared national emergencies before, but never to get the money they want after Congress refused.
The lawsuit will argue that the move is unconstitutional, and are seeking a preliminary injunction to stop Mr Trump from acting until the case is resolved. They may challenge his grounds for calling an emergency based on his own words, after he told reporters just before signing the declaration: “I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.”
The White House argued Mr Trump only meant he was “not going to ignore the border emergency”.
The 16 states all have Democratic governors, except for Maryland, whose Democratic Attorney-General is named in the action. The others are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Virginia.
The complaint was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco. Mr Trump last week said he believed the lower courts could rule against him, but he hoped he would prevail in the Supreme Court.
The complainants have a tough battle on their hands. The lawsuit states that the President “has used the pretext of a manufactured ‘crisis’ of unlawful immigration to declare a national emergency and redirect federal dollars appropriated for drug interdiction, military construction and law enforcement initiatives toward building a wall.”
He has repeatedly publicly railed against “criminal” immigrants bringing drugs over the border, a claim contested by Democrats, who say narcotics are more likely to enter through legal entry points.
The Justice Department is expected to argue that the court should not look at the facts about the border, but instead must defer to his decision. There is no official standard for what conditions have to be met before a president can declare a national emergency.
The judge will also need decide whether the dispute is properly before the court. The plaintiffs must establish that they are suffering some particular injury, with advocacy group Public Citizen filing a lawsuit on Friday on behalf of Texas landowners.
The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a suit claiming a border barrier would affect wildlife, and the American Civil Liberties Union is preparing a claim that military funds can only be redirected for construction projects that support the armed forces.
California Attorney-General Xavier Becerra told the New York Times he would argue that individual in states that are not on the border could still “lose funding that they paid for with their tax dollars, money that was destined for drug interdiction or for the Department of Defence for military men and women and military installations.”
— With wires