Lawsuits Abound After President Trump Declares National Emergency

A sign held at President Trump’s campaign rally in Mesa, Arizona last fall (Image:  Gage Skidmore )

A sign held at President Trump’s campaign rally in Mesa, Arizona last fall (Image: Gage Skidmore)

 

Last week, lawmakers were pressed to pass a spending bill to avoid another government shutdown, the last of which cost the U.S. economy an estimated $11 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Despite drastic partisan polarization that characterizes today’s political climate, Republicans and Democrats in Congress managed to come to an agreement last Monday to fund the government. However, the final agreement was not completely ideal for anyone. Compromises were made on key border security and immigration issues.

 Namely, this spending bill gives President Trump $1.375 billion to use for the construction of new fencing on a 55-mile stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border. The backlash from those affected by the previous shutdown has encouraged the President to accept the deal, despite the fact he rejected a deal in December that would have allotted $1.6 billion for this project.

“The answer is no...I’m not happy,” Mr. Trump initially said of the deal, but “I don’t think you’re going to see a shutdown,” he added, assuring the American people that he will keep the government open.

Before the President officially committed to compromising with Congressional Democrats to pass the bill, a number of conservative commentators openly criticized Mr. Trump’s resolve and dedication to fulfilling his campaign promise of building a border wall.

Fox News host Sean Hannity referred to the spending bill as a “garbage compromise,” while conservative media host Laura Ingraham posted a tweet stating: “No Republican should support this border deal charade.”

Such criticisms bear great weight as the 2020 election grows nearer.

During a campaign rally in El Paso, Texas last Monday, supporters in attendance began chanting one of President Trump’s key slogans from 2016, “build the wall.” Mr. Trump proceeded to correct the crowd, initiating a chant of “finish the wall.” This rebranding of a popular piece of his 2016 campaign is likely an attempt by the President to convince his voters that progress toward building a wall on the southern border has not stalled, despite difficulties to fund the project.

While the President insisted that much of the wall has already been built under his direction, numerous sources have said that the President’s statements are objectively false. Namely, The New York Times reports that all construction on the barrier at the southern border during Mr. Trump’s presidency has occurred to replace and repair existing structures. There has been no construction of a barrier in previously un-bordered sections like the prototypes the Trump administration spent $2.3 million to develop in 2017.

Ultimately, President Trump signed the bill to fund the government on Friday, but unsatisfied with the amount the bill allowed for his border wall, he immediately followed this action with a national emergency declaration in order to collect the remaining sum from other government funds.

The administration plans to use executive actions to procure $600 million from the Treasury Department’s drug forfeiture fund and $2.5 billion from the Defense Department’s drug interdiction program. Trump’s national emergency declaration will earn him an additional $3.5 billion from the Defense Department’s military construction budget.

Immediate backlash ensued from citizens and lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans alike about this use of executive power. Nancy Pelosi stated that Democrats would be looking into their legal options, while the ACLU announced their lawsuit against the President in a tweet on Friday afternoon: “We’re suing President Trump over today’s blatantly illegal declaration of a national emergency. There is no emergency. This is an unconstitutional power grab that hurts American communities. We’ll see him in court.”

Xavier Becerra, Attorney General of California, promised to file another lawsuit on behalf of the state in the near future. Hawaii, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Oregon are also expected to join California’s lawsuit against Mr. Trump for executive overreach.