Written by Charlie Savage and Robert Pear
A coalition of 16 Democratic-controlled states, including California and New York, on Monday, challenged President Donald Trump in court over his plan to use emergency powers to spend billions of dollars on his border wall.
The lawsuit is part of a constitutional confrontation that Trump set off on Friday when he declared that he would spend billions of dollars more on border barriers than Congress had granted him. The clash raises questions over congressional control of spending, the scope of emergency powers granted to the president, and how far the courts are willing to go to settle such a dispute.
The suit, filed in US District Court in San Francisco, argues that the president does not have the power to divert funds for constructing a wall along the Mexican border because it is Congress that controls spending.
Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, said in an interview that the president himself had undercut his argument that there was an emergency in the border.
“Probably the best evidence is the president’s own words,” he said, referring to Trump’s speech on Feb. 15 announcing his plan: “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.”
The lawsuit, California et al. v. Trump et al., says that the plaintiff states are going to court to protect their residents, natural resources and economic interests. “Contrary to the will of Congress, 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 and law enforcement initiatives toward building a wall on the United States-Mexico border,” the lawsuit says.
Legal specialists expected the Justice Department to urge a court not to consider facts about the border or Trump’s words, but rather to defer to the president’s decision. The courts have a long history of being reluctant to substitute their own judgment for the president’s about a security threat.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the lawsuits. Trump has said he expected to be sued, but would eventually prevail before the Supreme Court.