ACLU leads wave of lawsuits challenging Trump’s Emergency Declaration as an illegal power grab
President Donald Trump’s prediction that he would be taken to court over his national emergency declaration proved correct on February 15, the same day he made the announcement, with the ACLU filing one of several lawsuits against the Trump administration over the “blatantly illegal” move.
The organization noted in a statement that the president openly admitted the national emergency declaration, which he made to obtain funding for a wall at the southern U.S. border is unnecessary — bolstering the ACLU’s case.
“By the president’s very own admission in the Rose Garden, there is no national emergency,” said executive director Anthony Romero. “He just grew impatient and frustrated with Congress, and decided to move along his promise for a border wall ‘faster.’ This is a patently illegal power grab that hurts American communities and flouts the checks and balances that are hallmarks of our democracy.”
Cecillia Wang, deputy legal director for the group, outlined how the president’s declaration violates U.S. law in a video posted to Twitter.
“The president’s action in declaring this bogus national emergency is…illegal and dangerously strikes at the heart of our democracy and our checks and balances because Congress has already enacted our laws that describe exactly when a president can declare a national emergency,” said Wang. “Because there is no emergency—only the one in President Trump’s head for his own political purposes—he has violated our American laws.”
The ACLU is building a case arguing that Trump’s use of the emergency declaration to evade Congressional funding rules is “unprecedented” as well as unconstitutional:
10 U.S.C. § 2808, the emergency power that Trump has invoked, cannot be used to build a border wall. Congress restricted the use of that power to military construction projects, like overseas military airfields in wartime, that “are necessary to support” the emergency use of armed forces.
“The Constitution assigns Congress the power of the purse, and no prior president has ever tried to use emergency powers to fund a chosen project — particularly a permanent, large-scale domestic project such as this — against congressional will. This is obviously improper,” added Dror Ladin, staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project.
Other organizations challenging Trump’s action include Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), whose suit is aimed at obtaining documents related to the White House decision, and Public Citizen, suing on behalf of landowners and an environmental group located along the Texas border.
Protect Democracy and the Niskanen Center are also filing a lawsuit on behalf of El Paso County and the Border Network for Human Rights, arguing that “there is no legal basis for issuing” an emergency declaration and accusing Trump of presiding over the country as an autocrat.
“Throughout history, autocrats have used so-called emergency powers to seize control from democratic systems that don’t yield to their will,” said Kristy Parker, co-counsel for the pending lawsuit. “Often, they have invented fake crises for this purpose and we should all be extremely alarmed that President Trump has reached for this tool in the autocrat’s toolkit. Thankfully, our founders also knew that the seizing of legislative powers by the executive was, in the words of James Madison, ‘the very definition of tyranny’ and made it unlawful.”