As people took to the streets in hundreds of communities across the United States on Monday to protest President Donald Trump's "constitutionally illegitimate" national emergency declaration, 16 state attorneys general filed suit to challenge Trump's latest move to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"Today, on Presidents Day, we take President Trump to court to block his misuse of presidential power. We're suing President Trump to stop him from unilaterally robbing taxpayer funds lawfully set aside by Congress for the people of our states," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat who is leading the coalition, declared in a statement late Monday.
"President Trump treats the rule of law with utter contempt. He knows there is no border crisis, he knows his emergency declaration is unwarranted, and he admits that he will likely lose this case in court. He is willing to manipulate the Office of the Presidency to engage in unconstitutional theatre performed to convince his audience that he is committed to his 'beautiful' border wall," Becerra added. "For most of us, the Office of the Presidency is not a place for theatre."
California Attorney General @AGBecerra has filed his state's lawsuit against President Trump's emergency declaration:
"Its pretty clear the President is trying to usurp Congress's authority. The President does not have the power of the purse." https://t.co/OFu64i3oOh pic.twitter.com/MQRcbPHjTQ
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) February 19, 2019
In a widely anticipated move immediately condemned as "a full-fledged attack on our democracy," Trump declared a national emergency early Friday. That announcement came alongside his stamp of approval for a so-called "border deal" bill negotiated by Republican and Democratic leaders—legislation which human rights defenders denounced as "a betrayal of immigrant communities" that will "cause more deaths at the border and will separate more families."
The latest legal challange comes as a new poll shows that 61 percent of American adults do not approve of the president's decision to declare a national emergency to build the wall. Critics charge that while pushing for measures to make life harder for migrants seeking refuge in the United States, Trump is failing to take action to address "real" emergencies, from rampant gun violence and voter suppression to the global climate crisis.
The states' lawsuit (pdf) targeting the president's "fake emergency declaration," filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, is also backed by the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Virginia. It follows similar filings from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other organizations.
Noting that "by the president's own admission, an emergency declaration is not necessary," the states' suit decries his "flagrant disregard of fundamental separation of powers principles engrained in the United States Constitution," and warns that "President Trump has veered the country toward a constitutional crisis of his own making."