House Sues To Stop Trump’s Emergency Declaration

The House of Representatives is asking a Federal Judge to block the President's emergency declaration to fund his border wall.

The House of Representatives has joined the legal effort to block President Trump’s declaration of a “national emergency” at the southern border which he is using as justification to divert funding from the Defense Department and other agencies to fund construction of his border wall:

The House of Representatives has asked a federal judge to block President Donald Trump’s plan to build a border wall using Defense Department funds.

On Tuesday, House lawyers requested that U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden issue a preliminary injunction against the Trump administration’s plan to spend about $6 billion from military construction and counter-drug accounts to build additional barriers along the U.S-Mexico border.

“Defendants are moving quickly to construct the border wall, and they have awarded contracts against funds that Congress did not appropriate for that purpose. And more contracts are coming soon,” House General Counsel Doug Letter and other lawyers wrote. “Once made, these unconstitutional expenditures cannot be undone, and the grave institutional injury inflicted on the House cannot be remedied.”

The House’s 56-page motion accuses Trump of trying to make an end-run around the Constitution by ignoring Congress’s power of the purse. House lawyers also seek to use Trump’s own words against him, mentioning six times that on the day he announced the emergency, Trump also said, “I didn’t need to do this.” They also cite his campaign vow that Mexico would pay for the wall.

More than half of the money the House is seeking to block is linked to an emergency declaration Trump issued in February after he agreed to sign a budget bill following a 35-day government shutdown over wall funding. The bill contained only $1.375 billion for border fencing, far less than Trump sought.

However, the House motion seems to avoid a direct challenge to Trump’s emergency declaration. Instead, House lawyers argue that the planned spending doesn’t satisfy other legal requirements, like a need for use of the armed forces and a need to support those forces.

The motion also argues that the administration is guilty of duplicity, asserting that while officials insist some of the funds are needed for military construction, they are also tapping other funds which cannot be used for that purpose.

The House is not challenging the administration’s use of the $1.375 billion Congress appropriated for the current fiscal year or about $600 million the administration is tapping from a Treasury Forfeiture Fund.

This most recent filing follows upon the actual filing of the House lawsuit back at the beginning of April. That lawsuit joins a number of other lawsuits that have been filed across the country challenging one aspect or another of the President’s declaration of an emergency. One of those lawsuits was filed by California and fifteen other states that allege that they would be adversely impacted by the Administration’s action. Another has been filed by the watchdog group Public Citizen on behalf of Texas landowners and an environmental group in Texas. As expected, it basis much of its argument on eminent domain, private property, and environmental issues. A second lawsuit is being brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders and Wildlife, and the Animal Defense Fund. Others have been filed by the American Civil Liberties Union,
El Paso County, Texas, and the Border Network for Human Rights. Other groups have also talked about filing suits against the declaration.

Each of these lawsuits differs to some extent depending on the identity of the Plaintiffs, of course, but as a general rule, they are all based on the same set of facts. For example, the lawsuits all rely heavily on the President’s own words when he announced the declaration of an emergency back in February at the end of a process that began with the longest government shutdown in American history. At that time, the President made statements that clearly seem to undercut his claim that there is a “national emergency” on the border, especially his admission during the press conference where he announced it that he “didn’t need to do this” and that he just wanted things to move faster. This would not be the first time that the President’s own words have come back to haunt him in litigation, of course. We have also seen the same thing happen in the lawsuits over his Muslim Travel Ban and his ban on transgender troops in the military. The lawsuit also make a number of other factual allegations meant to undercut the President’s assertion that there is a “national emergency” on the border of the type that would justify invocation of the powers conferred by the National Emergencies Act of 1976, although it’s unclear how willing a court will be to look behind the President’s reasons for declaring an emergency given the broad grant of authority that the act confers on him. The lawsuits go on to allege that the President’s actions violate the principles of Separation of Powers in that it purports to allocate money in ways that Congress has not authorized, that it specifically violates the Constitution’s Appropriations Clause set forth in Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 which grants Congress the exclusive authority to appropriate money, that the declaration is outside the authority granted to the President by the Constitution or Federal Law, and that it violates several environmental laws passed by Congress in that it seeks to bypass normal environmental impact review processes that would have to be followed in the case of other Federal projects. As relief, the Complaint asks for an injunction blocking the emergency declaration and blocking any action aimed at building the wall.

So far, there has not been any significant legal developments in any of the cases filed against the President, but that’s likely to change soon since many of the cases filed back in February should be ready for hearings on the requests for an injunction by early next month.

Here are copies of the original Complaint filed by the House and the Motion for a Preliminary Injunction filed yesterday:

House of Representatives v…. by on Scribd

House of Representatives v…. by on Scribd

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, Donald Trump, Law and the Courts, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. James Pearce says:

    In an alternate universe in a better timeline, Trump would be entering an election year bragging about his signature issue: an expensive boondoggle that doesn’t work. We could have ended the political viability of a “build a border barrier” platform for a generation or more.

  2. CSK says:

    This morning, Trump Tweeted that: “We are now sending ARMED SOLDIERS to the border.” Ostensibly it’s in reaction to the incident that took place on April 13, but I wonder if he’s just decided this now as a response the the House–a diversion or deflection of some sort.

  3. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce: The administration would just lie and say that it is working, and half the population would believe them.

    “Migrants massing at the border — imagine how many would have gotten through if we didn’t have the wall. Imagine how many fewer would have gotten through if Democrats hadn’t cut the budget for it and made it shorter and a fence.”

  4. Moosebreath says:

    @James Pearce:

    In a far more likely alternate universe, Fox and Sinclair would be broadcasting 24-7-365 about how many people who don’t look like us were stopped by adding a few miles to the wall, and therefore Democrats would be aiding our enemies if they don’t agree to give billions more to pay for the wall’s completion, plus that since they already agreed to spend a little, they have no real reason to not spend so much more, except they hate the President.

  5. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    The House can sue and the WH will take it to the SCOTUS, which Dennison already owns.
    We have arrived at the point where he can do whatever he wants.
    There are no checks or balances upon him.

  6. James Pearce says:


    The administration would just lie and say that it is working, and half the population would believe them.

    The lies are granted, but I’m not so sure half the population would believe him. It seems to me that the folks who would be most angry at being lied to on this are the true believers. Instilling in them a sense of betrayal would, at the very least, put a wedge between them and Trump, which is a direct challenge to Trump’s “rely on the base” strategy.


    Fox and Sinclair would be broadcasting 24-7-365

    Yeah, their business model pretty much demands it. But I don’t think they’d be the most influential voices.

  7. The abyss that is the soul of cracker says:

    @James Pearce: I’m assuming that this alternate universe with a better timeline must also have at least marginally more intelligent and thoughtful voters, too? Or you can down shift your expectations to an election cycle or until the next candidate mentions it–whichever comes first.

  8. Moosebreath says:

    @James Pearce:

    “But I don’t think they’d be the most influential voices.”

    Among Trump supporters? It is to laugh.

  9. CSK says:

    @James Pearce: To Trump’s fan base, it’s not so much a matter of them believing him as it is of his lies even mattering to them. I mentioned the other day viewing a news clip in which a reporter asked some Trump fans at a rally if there were anything Trump could do or say that would alienate them. They replied: “Nothing.”

    Bear in mind that it’s not Trump’s policies–which change from day to day, or even several times within the same day–that appeal so strongly to his base. It’s the fact that he’s a churl who’s owning the libtards.He’s their “blue collar billionaire,” as they like to call him, the tough guy who’s putting all those fancy-schmancy elitist Commies in their place.

  10. The abyss that is the soul of cracker says:

    It seems to me that the folks who would be most angry at being lied to on this are the true believers. Instilling in them a sense of betrayal would, at the very least, put a wedge between them and Trump,

    It seems to me that the passengers on the light rail in your mind have been giving you bad data. Talk to them again and be a little more critical in your analysis.

  11. Matt says:

    @James Pearce:

    It seems to me that the folks who would be most angry at being lied to on this are the true believers. Instilling in them a sense of betrayal would, at the very least, put a wedge between them and Trump, which is a direct challenge to Trump’s “rely on the base” strategy.


    His base laps up anything he says. That’s why they are his base. Otherwise they wouldn’t swallow Trump’s bullshit about being a successful business man who is a good Christian who has always been anti-choice. The base is already celebrating the building of the wall just because Trump has declared he’s building or built it (depending on the day) and they have no problem believing it. Your laughable attempt at penetrating the mass delusion would have no effect. Your “plan” would 0f just provided more evidence to the base that the wall is being built and is effective because look even those evil open border american hating DEMONcRATS know the wall has to be built!!!

  12. Tyrell says:

    I have an idea. I have an idea, but I have not had a lot of time to research various aspects of it.
    I recently went to a public park. Leading into the park was a block type sidewalk. On each block was engraved the names of donors: families, children, single names, schools, school classrooms, pets, churches, businesses, etc. The blocks were of varying sizes. Some had included things like a flower, star, smily face. That struck me as a way that Trump could help pay for his wall. Get donations from people who want the wall and put their names on it in some way .