Virginia Sues Trump

Virginia has joined in a lawsuit with 15 other states to sue President Donald Trump after he declared a national emergency to fund and build a U.S.-Mexico border wall. The lawsuit argues that the President does not have the power to divert funds to build the wall, since Congress controls spending. It further claims that such an act is not within the scope of presidential powers during a national emergency.

The suit, California et al. v. Trump et al., was filed in San Francisco’s Federal District Court. The “Plaintiff States” claim to bring the action forth in order to protect their residents, natural resources and economic interests from the President’s “flagrant disregard of fundamental separation of powers principles engrained in the United States Constitution.”

“I think declaring the national emergency was stupid and honestly a huge abuse of power,” senior Benjamin Astrum said. “He even said he could do it without declaring it, it would just take longer,” Astrum continued, referring to Trump’s admission during a conference that the emergency declaration was to hurry the progress of border construction.

The lawsuit further charges that “the President has used the pretext of a manufactured ‘crisis’ of unlawful immigration to declare a national emergency and redirect federal dollars appropriated for drug interdiction, military construction, and law enforcement initiatives toward building a wall on the United States-Mexico border.”

“I also would like to see exactly what [the states] are suing for, because in a lawsuit what you say matters. A president hasn’t been challenged with this power because he has always used it legitimately, so no one has thought to challenge it,” Astrum said.

Though this is not the first time an individual state or a group of states has sued the executive administration, it is the first time a president has been challenged by states as a result of a previously-decided funding issue.

“What’s rather unique about this case is that it centers around the President trying to do something Congress specifically denied him the funding to do, rather than neglected to act on via legislation,” VWU Associate Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Political Science Department Leslie Caughell said.  

The Commonwealth of Virginia is represented by its Attorney General, Mark R. Herring. “We’re suing Trump because concocting a fake emergency to build a needless wall goes against the Constitution and he values America was built on,” Herring stated on Twitter. “If Trump redirects money to pay for his needless wall we could lose up to $131 million slated for military construction projects in Virginia.”

This estimate was also included in Virginia’s Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, which states more specifically that Virginia stands to lose up to $131.7 million, or roughly 16 percent, in military construction funding. The Complaint holds that “the use of funding for a southern border wall rather than for necessary maintenance and repairs to Virginia’s military bases harms the Commonwealth’s economy and the safety of Virginia’s service members.” Such funding is currently slated for use for projects at Dam Neck, Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Belvoir, Humphreys Engineer Center, Joint Base Langley-Eustis and the Pentagon.

“Many of the funds redirected to build the wall will come from construction projects already allocated in places like Hampton Roads and NC. There are bipartisan constituencies for these projects, people of both parties have fought for the funding of those projects. Many won’t be keen to see Congress circumvented and their constituents hurt,” Caughell said.

Furthermore, Virginia stands to lose an additional $3 million of federal drug interdiction and prevention funding. Such funding is regularly used to implement counter-narcotics and drug interdiction measures, and removing it to fund a U.S.-Mexico border wall “would threaten the public safety of all Virginians,” according to the Complaint.

Caughell further stated that “all Virginia residents would see the effects” of such a loss in funding. “It would be a substantial economic loss to the state, and especially Hampton Roads,” she said.

The Democratic majority in the House of Representatives voted on Tuesday, Feb. 26 to terminate President Trump’s declaration of national emergency. The bill was passed and sent to the U.S. Senate, amid criticism by Republicans and an indication from President Trump that he will veto it. Despite this vote, the lawsuit is still expected to proceed.

“I’m really hoping that it does not go through and [President Trump] has to call it off because it just is not the way this country works,” Astrum said.

“We would be delinquent in our duties if we did not resist, if we did not fight back to overturn the President’s declaration,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi told reporters. “What the President is saying about the border is mythology. It’s not reality, but this is not about the wall.”

Protestors gathered in downtown Norfolk Feb. 19 to oppose the wall and President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency. This protest was one of nearly 200 that took place across the country on Presidents Day.

According to WAVY TV 10, who reported on scene, protestors held signs that read “Trump is the emergency” and “No housing detainees for ICE in Norfolk.”

“I’m mostly here to protest the absolute idiocracy that is this border wall,” Virginia Beach resident Avanti Garedo said to WAVY reporters. “It is clearly not beneficial in any way. As a matter of fact, it is just a racist statement that should be completely eradicated from the United States.”

“You can’t just demonize a whole group of people and [think] you are just going to get away with it,” Garedo said.

Astrum also pointed out that President Trump’s declaration may set a precedent for Democrats to do the same in the future, if a Democratic president wins the office.

President Trump’s declaration has been called a “fake national emergency” and has been garnering ample amounts of attention on social media.

The other 15 states joining Virginia in the lawsuit are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Oregon.

Among the charged defendants, of which President Trump is the most publicized, is the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and the United States of America.

Read the full lawsuit online here.

Mickella Rast