By Jeff Mason and Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A coalition of 16 U.S. states led by California sued President Donald Trump and top members of his administration on Monday to block his decision to declare a national emergency to obtain funds for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California came after Trump invoked emergency powers on Friday to help build the wall that was his signature 2016 campaign promise.
Trump’s order would allow him to spend on the wall money that Congress appropriated for other purposes. Congress declined to fulfill his request for $5.7 billion to help build the wall this year..
“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 theater,” added Becerra, a Democrat.
The White House declined to comment on the filing.
In a budget deal passed by Congress to avert a second government shutdown, nearly $1.4 billion was allocated toward border fencing. Trump’s emergency order would give him an additional $6.7 billion beyond what lawmakers authorized.
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 curb illegal immigration and drug trafficking. The lawsuits could end up at the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court.
Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Virginia, and Michigan joined California in the lawsuit.
The states said Trump’s order would cause them to lose millions of dollars in federal funding for national guard units dealing with counter-drug activities and redirection of funds from authorized military construction projects would damage their economies.
In television interviews on Sunday and Monday, Becerra said the lawsuit would use Trump’s own words against him as evidence that there was no national emergency to declare.
Trump said on Friday he did not need to make the emergency declaration but wanted to speed the process of building the wall. That comment could undercut the government’s legal argument.
“By the president’s own admission, an emergency declaration is not necessary,” the states said in the lawsuit. “The federal government’s own data prove there is no national emergency at the southern border that warrants construction of a wall.”
(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)