Following the end of the longest government shutdown in US history, President Trump, who failed to secure what he viewed as sufficient border wall funding, declared a national emergency in order to divert several billion dollars away from the Department of Defense’s military construction budget towards the Department of Homeland Security.
After an unsuccessful battle with Congress, and President Trump’s first veto, Democrats failed to override the national emergency declaration and subsequently sued the president in federal court.
In an official statement when announcing intentions to sue, Speaker Pelosi said “the President’s sham emergency declaration and unlawful transfers of funds have undermined our democracy, contravening the vote of the bipartisan Congress, the will of the American people and the letter of the Constitution.”
The introduction of the Complaint reads “this case arises out of the unconstitutional actions taken by President Donald J. Trump’s Administration to construct a wall along the southern border of the United States,” and that the administration violated the “separation-of-powers principles and usurped for itself legislative power specifically vested by the Constitution in Congress;” though president Trump is not specifically named as a defendant.
Democrats in the suit point towards interviews where Trump said he did not have to declare a national emergency, but did so because it was easier. They also allege that the president violated the Appropriations Clause of the Constitution which dictates that all spending must originate in the House.
As I have written before, this particular case does fall under the very wide umbrella of a national emergency, which has no exact definition beyond “any special or extraordinary power,” which gives the President full discretion in what constitutes an emergency. Congressional laws also allow for the president to divert military funds to halt drug corridors along the borders.
Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointed judge, refused to take sides, and swiftly dismissed the case on the grounds of a lack of standing by the Democrats. In his 24 page opinion, Judge McFadden quotes Chief Justice John Marshall in Marbury v. Madison by saying “province of the [C]ourt is, solely, to decide on the rights of individuals, not to inquire how the executive, or executive officers, perform duties in which they have a discretion.” Because of this historic precedent and what he sees as the role of the judiciary, “the Court declines to take sides in this fight between the House and the President.”
The case was decided under the assumption that this is a quarrel between two branches of government, not a violation of ones rights. Judge McFadden chose to dismiss the case because Democrats lacked the standing to sue, and the nature of the case made it so the court did not have jurisdiction to make a decision, though he noted that “the Court does not imply that Congress may never sue the Executive to protect its powers.”
The ruling also, as he mentions, had nothing to do with the cases merits, rather, it was dismissed because of standing.