A coalition of 19 state attorneys general filed a lawsuit on Tuesday challenging the Trump administration’s plan to use money already allocated by Congress to procure equipment for state National Guard units in order to fund the building of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The administration notified Congress last month that it planned to divert more than $3.8 billion from the Department of Defense’s budget, citing the need to address “higher priority items” deemed “necessary in the national interest,” such as erecting 500 miles of new barriers on the border to support “counter-drug activities.”
According to the lawsuit, the action was brought to protect the states’ residents, National Guard units, and sovereign economic interests from the prospective harm posed by “President Donald J. Trump’s flagrant disregard of fundamental separation of powers principles engrained in the United States Constitution.”
“For the second consecutive year, the Trump Administration has acted contrary to the will of Congress by redirecting billions of dollars appropriated by Congress for Department of Defense (‘DOD’) projects toward building a wall on the United States-Mexico border,” the attorneys general wrote. “This includes the diversion of funds for military projects in the Plaintiff States and vital equipment for the States’ respective National Guards. Defendants must be enjoined from carrying out President Trump’s unconstitutional and unlawful scheme.”
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Oakland Division and signed by the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, and the Commonwealths of Massachusetts and Virginia.
“President Trump is risking the safety of every American by diverting taxpayer dollars from our military to fund the same xenophobic campaign promises he’s made for the last four years,” New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) said in a press release Tuesday afternoon. “The courts have already once rejected the president’s unlawful attempt to shift funds to his hateful pet project, so as long as this Administration continues down the path of illegally subsidizing an ill-advised border wall we will not hesitate to take action. We will not stand for this abuse of power and will fight it using every tool at our disposal.”
A federal judge last month already blocked the administration from diverting approximately $90 million Congress had allocated to a naval submarine base to fund the border wall.
After filing the complaint, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) said the administration cannot be allowed to continue subverting the will of Congress at the expense of the states.
“Ignoring the Rule of Law comes easy to President Trump, even after our courts have slapped him down,” Becerra said in a press release. “This year’s victim of his taxpayer money grab is the National Guard, which would lose critical funds to secure essential equipment for our troops. Congress has repeatedly and explicitly rejected taxpayer funding for a wasteful Trump wall along the border. We’re going to court – once again – to remind Donald Trump that even the President is not above the law.”
You can read the 77-page complaint below.
[image via SAUL LOEB_AFP via Getty Images]