Trump national emergency declaration faces first test in California court

President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE’s declaration of a national emergency to build a wall along the southern border faced its first legal challenge in a California courtroom on Friday.

Attorneys for the House, a group of states and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) all appeared before a federal judge in Oakland on Friday to make their first arguments against the national emergency declaration, which will divert military funds toward the creation of the wall. All three groups have filed lawsuits challenging the order.

Trump issued the directive earlier this year after Congress refused to include his requested amount of border security funds in a government funding bill. The standoff resulted in a record 35-day-long government shutdown.


The group of the 20 states, led by California, and the coalition of immigration and environmental groups headed up by the ACLU have individually asked District Judge Haywood Gilliam to issue a preliminary injunction to halt construction of the wall.

House general counsel Douglas Letter reportedly argued to Gilliam during Friday's hearing that Trump doesn’t have the authority to appropriate the funds without congressional approval.

“As everyone knows, the executive branch cannot build this wall without Congress,” Letter said, according to Reuters. “The president asked for $8.1 billion to build the wall and Congress said no to that. This money was clearly denied by Congress under immense pressure.”

The House’s own lawsuit against the emergency declaration was not featured in court on Friday, but Letter was speaking in support of the pair of lawsuits under consideration.

Gilliam, an Obama appointee, did not make a ruling during Friday’s hearing, which was held to consider the motions for a preliminary injunction over the emergency declaration.

All three lawsuits have argued that the president is violating the Constitution by tapping military funds for border wall construction, arguing that only Congress is permitted to appropriate funding.

The states have also claimed that the directive is hurting their ability to assist their citizens, as officials have proposed tapping into funds for programs they benefit from.

In addition, the ACLU’s lawsuit claims there could be irreparable harm done to the environment at the border if a wall is constructed.

The Trump administration argues that the president has the authority to redirect the Pentagon funds under the scope of the National Emergencies Act. And officials have pointed to a surge in border crossings in requiring additional security at the southern border.

Trump reprogrammed about $3.6 billion in military construction funds for the wall with his emergency declaration, and officials have transferred an additional $1 billion in counter-drug funding. 

Documents released earlier this week also show that the Pentagon plans to pull $1.5 billion dollars originally intended for items like upgrading Air Force surveillance planes and an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system.

A hearing for the lawmakers’ legal challenge is scheduled for federal court in D.C. on Thursday.