For second consecutive year, President Trump circumvents will of Congress to redirect funding for rejected wall
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today led a coalition of 19 attorneys general in filing a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s illegal diversion of $3.8 billion in taxpayer dollars for the construction of an unauthorized wall along the US-Mexico border. For the second consecutive fiscal year, the Trump Administration has circumvented the will of Congress by illegally redirecting billions of taxpayer dollars, this time snatching fiscal year 2020 funding expressly assigned to state National Guard units throughout the country for the procurement of essential equipment. In today’s lawsuit, the coalition argues that the court should rule that the Department of Defense’s (DOD) diversion of already allocated funds for the unauthorized construction of a wall is an unconstitutional violation of Congress’s appropriation power.
“Ignoring the Rule of Law comes easy to President Trump, even after our courts have slapped him down. 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,” said Attorney General Becerra. “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.”
On February 13, 2020, the Trump Administration announced that it would redirect over $3.8 billion in funds that Congress appropriated to the DOD for resources and equipment for state National Guard units nationwide toward the construction of a wall along the border. Congress has repeatedly rebuffed the President’s insistence on funding such a project, providing only limited money for fencing along the border in the 2019 and 2020 budgets. California has much at stake in this lawsuit as it shares 140 miles of its southern border with Mexico. California has a strong interest in maintaining the orderly and regulated flow of goods and people across the border, a critical element of the state’s success as the fifth largest economy in the world. The unlawful diversion of taxpayer dollars will significantly impact the capacity of state National Guard units across the country, including in California and other plaintiff states. Military construction projects in plaintiff states also remain at risk of being defunded.
In the lawsuit, the coalition argues that the diversion of funds violates the principles of separation of powers, the Presentment Clause, and the Appropriations Clause of the U.S. Constitution by usurping Congress’ appropriation powers. The coalition further asserts that the Trump Administration fails to satisfy the legal requirements necessary to divert the funds and disregards the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to consider the environmental impact of construction. The diverted funds will be used to construct a wall on the borders of California and New Mexico, posing imminent environmental harm to more than 100 sensitive plant and animal species.
Attorney General Becerra has led the charge to stand up to President Trump’s unlawful attempts to divert funding toward construction of a Trump wall. On February 18, 2019, Attorney General Becerra and California Governor Gavin Newsom challenged the unlawful diversion of funds for the 2019 fiscal year, filing a multistate lawsuit in the district court of Northern California. On June 28, 2019, the district court ruled that the Trump Administration’s actions were unlawful and granted judgment in favor of the States. This ruling is currently pending on appeal before the Ninth Circuit.
In filing this new lawsuit, Attorney General Becerra is joined by the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
A copy of the lawsuit can be found here.