Capitol Alert

Gavin Newsom says California plans to sue Donald Trump over national emergency declaration

California plans to sue over President Donald Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency at the Mexico border, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday.

If filed, the lawsuit would mark the state’s 46th legal challenge to Trump administration policies. This time, Newsom said, the state intends to contest Trump’s use of executive power for what the governor calls a manufactured crisis at the border.

“Our message back to the White House is simple and clear: California will see you in court,” Newsom said.

In a speech in the White House Rose Garden, Donald Trump announced the emergency declaration to build a wall along the border. He described illegal immigration over the border as “an invasion of our country.”

An emergency declaration lets the White House pay for the wall by repurposing money Congress previously allocated for military construction and counterdrug operations, aides said in a briefing with reporters Friday morning.

Trump has been unable to get that money from Congress. Democrats have refused to provide the $5.7 billion he requested in December spending negotiations. The disagreement led to a 35-day partial government shutdown, which ended in late January.

Administration officials told reporters they have identified as much as $8 billion they believe they can redirect to wall construction under the emergency declaration.

That includes $3.6 billion allocated for military construction and $2.5 billion from a counternarcotics account that funds National Guard efforts to stop drugs from flowing across the border, among other activities.

Instead, the administration wants to add about 200 miles of barriers along the border, augmenting the roughly 650 miles of border that already have some kind of wall.

A senior White House official told reporters the administration does not plan to redirect money from flood-control projects in the Sacramento region.

Reports last month that the White House could tap those civil works funds prompted Democratic Rep. John Garamendi and fellow California Democrats in the House to introduce legislation to block such a move.

Those projects are “not on the table currently,” the White House official said.

Newsom and Attorney General Xavier Beccera at a joint news conference declined to say when they would file the lawsuit they are preparing.

Becerra said he needs to review the text of the president’s declaration before he can say exactly what his office will do. He said he anticipates California will join several other states in suing over the declaration.

“President Trump got one thing right this morning about his declaration, when he said ‘I didn’t have to do this,’” Becerra said, referring to Trump’s remarks at the White House. “In fact, he can’t do this… This is a president showing his disdain for the rule of law and our U.S. Constitution.”

The president has argued the country needs physical barriers on the border to stem the flow of illegal drugs into the United States. Democrats have countered that most of the drugs coming over the Southwest border are brought in through ports of entry.

A spending deal Congress passed on Thursday includes an increase in funding for new screening equipment and 600 new customs officers at border crossings, including California’s five busy land ports of entry. That legislation, which the president signed to prevent another partial government shutdown, also provides $191 million for infrastructure improvements at the Calexico border crossing.

San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Vice President Paola Avila said “the new federal funding will help improve ports of entry efficiency and security.” That will have an economic impact, Avila said, because 90 percent “of California’s exports to Mexico are processed through our land ports of entry.”

Newsom’s announcement about the pending lawsuit caps a week in which he and Trump repeatedly tested each other. On Monday, Newsom announced that he’d scale down a California National Guard deployment that Trump requested a year ago. Newsom wanted to reassign the troops to other priorities, such as preparing for wildfires and seizing illegal drugs.

On Wednesday, Trump declared in a Twitter message that he’d demand California return $3.5 billion to the federal government after Newsom put the brakes on costly legs of the state’s $77 billion high speed rail project.

Newsom on Friday repeated language he used in his State of the State speech earlier this week, arguing that the border wall Trump wants is a “vanity project” that distracts from more pressing challenges, such as delivering assistance to Californians who lost homes in wildfires.

Newsom on Thursday met with victims of the Camp Fire, which killed 86 people in November.

“I cannot impress upon the president more than at this moment not to play politics with any emergency declarations that would somehow impact the efforts here,” the Democrat said Thursday while meeting with Camp Fire victims in Northern California. “This is an area where politics has no place.”

Hannah Wiley contributed reporting.

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Sophia Bollag covers California politics and government. Before joining The Bee, she reported in Sacramento for the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times. She grew up in California and is a graduate of Northwestern University.
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