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California attorney general calls Trump’s national emergency ‘reckless’

Several states and organizations are preparing legal challenges to President Trump’s national emergency declaration over immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border. One of them is California, whose attorney general, Xavier Becerra, talks to Amna Nawaz about why Trump’s “reckless” action inappropriately reallocates taxpayer money, is without precedent and could violate the Constitution.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we heard, President Trump's declaration of a national emergency is provoking considerable scrutiny. Even within his own party, opinion is split, and much of the talk now is about the court battles to come.

    Amna Nawaz starts there.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    There are expected to be a number of legal challenges to the declaration, including from the state of California.

    The man who led that suit, Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California and a former member of House Democratic leadership.

    Mr. Attorney General, thank you, and welcome back to the "NewsHour."

    When you gave a press conference earlier, you said that you were going to be challenging the declaration in some way after you reviewed the text, that you have sister states filing with you. So, now that you have read the text, what do you plan to do, when will you do it, and who's with you?

  • Xavier Becerra:

    We are still reviewing, but we are prepared to move.

    We do believe the president's actions are not only reckless, but unlawful. And so we will move. And we will have other states that are going to be joining with us that have been working with us throughout this whole process.

    We will be ready to go because it's important to make sure that when Americans in whatever state send their tax dollars to the federal government that they know they are going to be used for the right purposes and the purpose Congress said, not because some president says all of a sudden he's unhappy and he wants to declare a national emergency.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, I know you're still reviewing the text, but based on what the president has laid out, what do you think the legal basis for that challenge will be?

  • Xavier Becerra:

    The president tried and filed failed to get more money out of Congress. As he said in his press conference, he is not happy.

    And he says it's a great thing do to declare a national emergency. And he also admitted that this is not something he needs to do. Those are not the words of a president who is about to declare a national emergency.

    Think 9/11 with President Bush. Think President Jim Carter with the Iran hostage crisis. In those cases, the presidents were not happy about what they are doing. And neither president, of course, would have said, this is something I don't need to do.

    President Trump just simply doesn't understand that he's limited, like any other American, in how he tries to comply with the law. He is not above the law. And so in this particular case, under the Constitution, separation of powers, he doesn't have the authority to redirect dollars that Congress has allocated to the various states.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The president's supporters will say, look, some of what he said today is absolutely true. There have been increasing numbers of family units taxing our system in unprecedented ways. There's this enormous immigration backlog.

    There's a crisis to some degree. And in the absence of Congress doing something about it, this is the president taking drastic measures to do something.

    What do you say to that?

  • Xavier Becerra:

    We certainly have challenges on the border. And many of these challenges are manufactured by the president himself, when he treats individuals who are trying to apply for asylum against the law, when he tries to use force on peaceful individuals who are cross the U.S. border.

    And so there's no doubt that there's a challenge, but it's not a national emergency. For him to try to then rob money that's been allocated for good purposes throughout the country is to deny taxpayers of their constitutional rights to make sure that there's a clear separation of powers between an executive and a legislative branch, which is the branch that has the power to direct dollars.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Mr. Attorney General, very briefly, before I let you go, we should point out, in the past, you have supported legally executive authority, executive actions taken by presidents, for example, the DACA program created by executive order under President Obama.

    And you filed a number of lawsuits against this administration. So a lot of people will ask, is your objection to this legal or is it political?

  • Xavier Becerra:

    Remember that President Obama acted — executive action based on his authority as president. He didn't change laws. He didn't try to dismiss laws. He was simply trying to work within the framework of our immigration laws in dealing with DACA and the DAPA program.

    Here, President Trump is not simply trying to work within the framework of our existing laws. He's talking trying to undermine them and cancel them in order for him to be able to take money from other purposes that have been allocated by Congress.

    And so it's a clear violation, not just of laws and the appropriations done by Congress. It's a violation of the separation of powers under the Constitution.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Mr. Attorney General Xavier Becerra of the state of California, thanks very much for your time.

  • Xavier Becerra:

    Thank you.

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