Attorney General James Sues Trump Administration Over Attempt To Unlawfully Divert Billions Of Taxpayer Dollars To Build Border Wall

Attorney General James Sues Trump Administration Over Attempt to Unlawfully Divert Billions of Taxpayer Dollars to Build Border Wall

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James, along with a coalition of 18 additional attorneys general from around the nation, today filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s illegal and unconstitutional diversion of $3.8 billion in taxpayer dollars for the construction of an unauthorized border wall. For the second consecutive year, the Trump Administration has circumvented the will of Congress by redirecting billions of dollars appropriated for the procurement of equipment by state National Guard units in order to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. In today’s lawsuit, Attorney General James and the coalition argue that the court should again rule that the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DOD) diversion of already allocated funds to the construction of the border wall is an unconstitutional violation of Congress’s appropriation power.

“President Trump is risking the safety of every American by diverting taxpayer dollars from our military to fund the same xenophobic campaign promises he’s made for the last four years,” said Attorney General James. “The courts have already once rejected the president’s unlawful attempt to shift funds to his hateful pet project, so as long as this Administration continues down the path of illegally subsidizing an ill-advised border wall we will not hesitate to take action. We will not stand for this abuse of power and will fight it using every tool at our disposal.”

Last month, 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 border wall. Congress has repeatedly rebuffed the president’s insistence on funding the border wall, providing limited funding for fencing along the border in the 2019 and 2020 budgets.

The diversion will significantly impact the capacity and capability of state National Guard units across the country, including in New York and other plaintiff states. Military construction projects also remain at risk of being defunded.

In today’s 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’s 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, which pose imminent environmental harm to more than 100 sensitive plant and animal species.

This is not the first lawsuit Attorney General James filed against the president’s border wall. Last year, Attorney General James and a coalition of attorneys general filed an earlier lawsuit challenging President Trump’s 2019 declaration of a national emergency and his attempt to divert $1.6 billion in federal funds appropriated by Congress to build a border wall. As part of the president’s efforts, the Department of Defense announced that the United States Military Academy (West Point) would lose $160 million slated for two major projects at the military academy. In December, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that the president’s attempts to use military funding to build his border wall were illegal. An appeal, brought by the Trump Administration, is currently pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Joining Attorney General James in filing today’s lawsuit are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.