California, N.Y. and other states sue Trump over national emergency to fund border wall

"Today, on Presidents Day, we take President Trump to court to block his misuse of presidential power," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.
Image: Gavin Newsom, Xavier Becerra
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, right, with Gov. Gavin Newsom, has sued the president dozens of times. Rich Pedroncelli / AP

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By Jane C. Timm

California, New York and 14 other states filed a lawsuit Monday challenging Donald Trump's national emergency declaration.

"Today, on Presidents Day, we take President Trump to court to block his misuse of presidential power," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. President Trump "is willing to manipulate the Office of the Presidency to engage in unconstitutional theater performed to convince his audience that he is committed to his ‘beautiful’ border wall. We’re suing President Trump to stop him from unilaterally robbing taxpayer funds lawfully set aside by Congress for the people of our states."

Joining California in the suit are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Virginia.

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Becerra's statement slammed the president's justification for a national emergency as a "hyped crisis."

"Unlawful southern border entries are at their lowest point in 20 years, immigrants are less likely than native-born citizens to commit crimes, and illegal drugs are more likely to come through official ports of entry," the attorney general's statement said.

"The only national emergency is the president's trafficking in lies and deceit," Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said in a statement earlier Monday.

Trump said on Friday that he would bypass Congress by declaring a national emergency to build a border wall along the nation’s southern border, after a protracted battle in which Congress has repeatedly declined to give the president billions to build border barriers.

A national emergency declaration gives the president special powers to take taxpayer dollars from other budgets to pay for border wall construction, but legal challenges to such an effort are inevitable. Before the emergency was declared, Becerra vowed "to reject this foolish proposal in court the moment it touches the ground."

Trump signaled in remarks last week that he anticipated lawsuits.

"We will have a national emergency, and we will then be sued. And they will sue us in the Ninth Circuit, even though it shouldn't be there," the president said, referring to the nation's largest circuit court whose area encompasses California. "And we'll possibly get a bad ruling and then we'll get another bad ruling and then we'll end up the Supreme Court, and then hopefully we'll get a fair shake and we'll win in the Supreme Court, just like the ban."

NBC asked White House aides for a response to the lawsuit, but they have not yet provided a comment.