|RICHMOND(March 3, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a coalition of 19 attorneys general in filing a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s illegal 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 military construction and other projects in order to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. In today’s lawsuit, the coalition argues that the court should again rule that the 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. Virginia specifically could stand to lose up to $631.3 million in currently appropriated military construction funding.
“Once again, the Trump Administration has circumvented Congress in order to divert critical funding from actual national security priorities, including military construction projects at different facilities across Virginia,” said Attorney General Herring. “We cannot continue to allow this President to skirt the law, especially when his actions go against the very values our country was built on.”
On February 13, 2020, 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 limiting funding for fencing along the border in the 2019 and 2020 budgets.
Virginia has much at stake in this lawsuit as it stands to lose up to $631.3 million in currently appropriated military construction funding. The diversion will also significantly impact the capacity and capability of state National Guard units across the country, including in California and other plaintiff states. Military construction projects in plaintiff states also remain at risk of being defunded.
In the lawsuit, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues argue 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.
Attorney General Herring filed a similar lawsuit last year when the Trump Administration declared a state of emergency and diverted billions of dollars towards building the border wall. A federal judge declared a preliminary injunction in that lawsuit blocking President Trump’s unlawful attempts to divert and direct money to a wall along the southern border under the guise of a “national emergency.”
Joining Attorney General Herring in filing the lawsuit today are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.