A coalition of 16 US states led by California has launched legal action against Donald Trump’s administration over his decision to declare a national emergency in order to fund a wall along the Mexico border.
The lawsuit was filed on Monday in the US district court for the northern district of California after Trump invoked emergency powers on Friday when Congress declined his request for $5.7bn to help create his signature policy promise.
His move aims to let him spend money appropriated by Congress for other purposes.
“Today, on Presidents Day, we take President Trump to court to block his misuse of presidential power,” California attorney general Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “We’re suing President Trump to stop him from unilaterally robbing taxpayer funds lawfully set aside by Congress for the people of our states. For most of us, the Office of the Presidency is not a place for theatre,” added Becerra, a Democrat.
Three Texas landowners and an environmental group filed the first lawsuit against Trump’s move on Friday, saying it violated the constitution and would infringe on their property rights.
The legal challenges could slow Trump’s efforts to build the wall, which he says is needed to check illegal immigration and drug trafficking, and the case is likely to end up in the conservative-leaning US supreme court.
In a budget deal passed by Congress to avert a second government shutdown, nearly $1.4bn was allocated to border fencing. Trump’s emergency order would give him $6.7bn beyond what lawmakers authorised.
In television interviews on Sunday and Monday, Becerra said the lawsuit would use Trump’s own words against him as evidence there was no national emergency to declare. Earlier, Trump had said he knew that he did not need to declare an emergency to build the wall, a comment that could now undercut the government’s legal argument.
“Presidents don’t go in and claim declarations of emergency for the purposes of raiding accounts because they weren’t able to get Congress to fund items,” Becerra said on MSNBC.