Oregon (again) joins states suing Trump, this time to block border emergency
Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said the motivation behind her latest legal hurdle against President Donald Trump is to protect natural disaster mitigation funding for Oregon.
Rosenblum joined 15 other states to sue Trump and block his national emergency declaration.
Rosenblum said the declaration is an illegal workaround. Trump is "misusing national emergency powers for political gain, rather than for rare, dire circumstances this powers are meant to address," she said.
Trump declared a national emergency Friday, Feb. 15, after Congress adopted a spending bill that did not include the money the president wanted to fund a border wall, saying he needed the declaration to battle illegal immigration and smuggled drugs. In its compromise bill, Congress gave Trump $1.375 billion for border security. He is using executive power to take $600 million in asset forfeiture funds usually reserved for law enforcement, $2.5 billion in military funds for antidrug initiatives and $3.6 billion that was supposed to go to military construction projects.
The 57-page lawsuit filed Monday, Feb. 18, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco names Trump and several cabinet members as defendants. California's Attorney General Xavier Becerra took the lead on the project. Rosenblum said ever since Oregon joined other states to block Trump's ban people traveling from a handful of majority Muslim countries, her staff has stayed in communication with other attorneys general. Rosenblum said work on Monday's lawsuit started a few weeks ago when Trump started threatening the use of executive power to fund his wall. It is the 20th lawsuit against the Trump administration in which Oregon has been a party. In her proposed budget, Gov. Kate Brown asked for $2 million to be earmarked for lawsuits against the Trump administration.
Rosenblum said she decided to join the emergency declaration lawsuit because it impacts funds for projects in Oregon. Rosenblum said money diverted to military construction could have been used for Army Corps of Engineer projects in Oregon, such as flooding or wildfire mitigation.
"This is all money that could potentially not come to Oregon that we need, frankly," she said.
Rosenblum said her office has been fiscally responsible in joining these lawsuits, only using department resources while leaning on states like New York and California that have large staffs. To date, she said, the office has used less than $1 million combined in resources to fight Trump.
'Far from an emergency'
The basis for the lawsuit is that Trump violated the appropriations clause of the U.S. Constitution, which says Congress has to approve the president's spending plans. Since the National Emergencies Act was adopted in 1976, it has been enacted 60 times, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
Rosenblum said Trump's application of the executive power is unprecedented. "The emergency powers have never been used when Congress has already determined funds should not be issued for that purpose," she said.
As many pundits and politicians predicted, Trump's own words were heavily relied upon in the lawsuit. "I could do the wall over a longer period of time," Trump said in declaring an emergency. "I didn't need to do this. But I'd rather do it much faster."
Rosenblum found the gaff laughable. "That guy does not help himself when he opens his mouth. That's about as far from an emergency as you can imagine."
Further, Rosenblum pointed to Trump's diversion antidrug dollars going to fund a border wall. Despite Trump's statements to the contrary, federal data indicates the vast majority of illegal drugs come through ports of entry, not unsecured border crossing sites. "He doesn't see the connection, or the irony," Rosenblum said. "The hypocrisy, really."
Regardless of an initial decision, both sides are ready to appeal, which would move the case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Trump has repeatedly criticized the court, which has ruled against him several times on national issues.
The case is expected to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Rosenblum said "all bets are off" due to Trump's two appointments, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Even though conservative Chief Justice John Roberts recently voted with the liberal arm of the court to uphold abortion precedent, Rosenblum said Roberts' vote will be tough to predict, and the new judges are favorable to executive power.
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