Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said Tuesday that she joined other states in suing President Donald Trump to safeguard federal money for flood protection in Oregon.

The 16 states sued in U.S. District Court in California Monday to block Trump’s declaration of a national emergency and his plans to divert money from federal agencies to build walls along the southern U.S. border.

Rosenblum said in an interview with Salem Reporter the money that may be taken from military construction would have been used for Army Corps of Engineer projects in Oregon, such as flood prevention or wildfire mitigation. 

“This is all money that could potentially not come to Oregon that we need, frankly,” she said.

Rosenblum said the declaration is an illegal workaround. Trump is “misusing national emergency powers for political gain, rather than for rare, dire circumstances these powers are meant to address,” she said.

On Friday, after Congress passed a spending bill that didn’t include the money Trump wanted for a border wall, the president declared illegal immigration and drugs being smuggled into the United States was a national emergency. 

Congress gave Trump $1.375 billion for border security. He now intends to use executive power to take $600 million in asset forfeiture funds usually reserved for law enforcement, $2.5 billion in military funds for antidrug initiatives and $3.6 billion that was supposed to go to military construction projects.  

The lawsuit names Trump and several Cabinet secretaries as defendants. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra took the lead on the project.

Rosenblum said ever since Oregon joined with other states to block Trump’s ban people traveling from a handful of majority Muslim countries, her staff has stayed in communication with other attorneys general. Rosenblum said work on this lawsuit started a few weeks ago when Trump started threatening the use of executive power to fund his wall. 

This is the 20th lawsuit against the Trump administration in which Oregon has been a party. In her proposed budget for 2019-2021, Gov. Kate Brown is asking for $2 million for lawsuits against Trump.

Rosenblum said her office has been fiscally responsible in joining these lawsuits, only using department resources while leaning on states like New York and California that have large staffs. To date, she said, the office has spent less than $1 million to fight Trump.

The basis for the lawsuit is that Trump violated the appropriations clause of the U.S. Constitution, which says Congress must approve the president’s spending. Since the National Emergencies Act was passed in 1976, it has been enacted 60 times, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. 

Rosenblum said Trump’s application of the executive power is unprecedented.

“The emergency powers have never been used when Congress has already determined funds should not be issued for that purpose,” she said.

As many pundits and politicians predicted, Trump’s own words were used against him in the lawsuit.

“I could do the wall over a longer period of time,” Trump said in declaring an emergency. “I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster.”

Rosenblum found the gaff laughable. 

“That guy does not help himself when he opens his mouth,” she said. “That’s about as far from an emergency as you can imagine.”

Rosenblum pointed to Trump’s diversion of antidrug dollars to fund a border wall. Federal data indicates the majority of illegal drugs come through ports of entry, not unsecured border crossing sites. 

“He doesn’t see the connection, or the irony,” she said. “The hypocrisy, really.”

Reporter Aubrey Wieber: aubrey@salemreporter.com or 503-575-1251. Wieber is a reporter for Salem Reporter who works for the Oregon Capital Bureau, a collaboration of EO Media Group, the Pamplin Media Group, and Salem Reporter.

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