WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump asserted Tuesday he had an "absolute right" to declare a national emergency to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border without congressional approval of funding for it.
Sixteen states sued Trump late Monday in federal court in California where judges have overturned other Trump initiatives during his 25-month presidency.
But the U.S. leader said at the White House, "I think we're going to do very well with the lawsuit."
As he announced the national emergency last Friday, Trump said he expected to lose the initial legal fights over the declaration, especially if the lawsuits disputing his decision were filed in the 9th Circuit of western state courts, which is where the 16 states sued. But Trump said he expects to ultimately prevail with a favorable Supreme Court ruling overturning any adverse lower court decisions.
In earlier Twitter comments, the U.S. leader targeted California Tuesday for its leading role in the multi-state lawsuit.
Trump cited California Gov. Gavin Newsome's cancellation last week of a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco, claiming, without evidence, the cancellation was due to "world record setting" cost overruns. Trump also claimed the project was "hundreds of times more expensive than the desperately needed Wall!"
The states' complaint alleges Trump's emergency declaration is illegal and unconstitutional, and harms the states and their residents by taking money away from anti-drug programs, military construction projects and other law enforcement efforts. Trump is planning to reallocate $8 billion in funding from various U.S. agencies to build the border wall.
The lawsuit asks the court to permanently prohibit the Trump administration from diverting the funds from elsewhere in the government, or to build a wall without Congress appropriating money for that purpose.
"President Trump treats the rule of law with utter contempt," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said. "He knows there is no border crisis. He knows his emergency declaration is unwarranted, and he admits that he will likely lose this case in court."
Becerra accused Trump of engaging in "theater" and hyping a crisis because he failed to get Congress or Mexico to pay for the wall, a favorite campaign vow of Trump during his successful 2016 run for the presidency.
An environmental group and three Texas landowners across whose property the wall would be built have also already filed lawsuits.
The White House has not yet responded to the states' lawsuit. But it had anticipated court challenges to the emergency declaration.
Trump said he declared the national emergency because he was unhappy with the amount of money Congress authorized for border security — $1.375 billion for barriers but not a wall.
"I want to do it faster," he said when he announced his declaration last week. "I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn't need to do this. But I'd rather do it much faster" — words that could come back to haunt the administration in court.