16 states sue Trump administration over national emergency declaration

By Camilo Montoya-Galvez

/ CBS News

States sue Trump administration over emergency declaration

A coalition of attorneys general from 16 states sued the Trump administration Monday over President Trump's declaration of a national emergency to fund border security measures, calling the White House's unprecedented move "unlawful and unconstitutional."

The multi-state lawsuit, spearheaded by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, an outspoken critic of the Trump administration, represents the first and most significant legal challenge to the president's controversial proclamation to date. Some Democratic lawmakers have also vowed to introduce legislation in Congress to terminate the White House's declaration.

"Today, on Presidents Day, we take President Trump to court to block his misuse of presidential power," Becerra said in a statement Monday night. "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."

The other states joining the lawsuit are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Virginia.

After Congress approved spending legislation with only $1.375 billion in funding for 55 miles of physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, the president declared a national emergency to access billions of dollars in additional funds to build a border wall.

"We're going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border," Mr. Trump said during a televised address Friday. "And we're going to do it one way or the other."

The extraordinary move allows the White House to use $3.6 billion in military construction funds for the construction of a wall. Through a separate executive order signed Friday, the president will also be able to divert $2.5 billion from counternarcotics initiatives and $601 million from a Treasury Department forfeiture fund.

The president's decision to act unilaterally without legislative consent provoked widespread criticism from Democrats, who quickly introduced legislation to disapprove the national emergency proclamation. Even from some moderate Republicans criticized the move, including Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who accused Mr. Trump of "usurping congressional authority." Despite voicing concerns about the proclamation before Mr. Trump issued it, most rank-and-file Republicans and the House and Senate GOP leadership have expressed their support since Friday's announcement.

Echoing remarks from several of his congressional colleagues, Will Hurd, the sole Republican representing a congressional district along the southern border, said on "Face the Nation" Sunday that the White House's move sets a "dangerous precedent."

First published on February 18, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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