Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


Ferguson’s lawsuit blocked administration from spending the funds until at least Feb. 1, 2020

OLYMPIA — A bipartisan group of more than 100 former members of Congress have filed a brief in support of Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s challenge of the Trump Administration’s border wall “emergency.”

The group includes former Washington congressmen Brian Baird and Jim McDermott. It also includes former Republican Sen. William Cohen, who served as defense secretary under Bill Clinton, and former Congressman Leon Panetta, who served as Secretary of Defense and director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Barack Obama. The list of bipartisan signers come from 36 different states. They are represented locally by former Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna.

In the brief, filed in support of Washington’s lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, they argue that “the Executive Branch has usurped billions of dollars that Congress appropriated for genuinely pressing national needs, including some $90 million that Congress put toward crucial improvements to a naval submarine base in Washington that employs nearly 10,000 personnel and provides tremendous support for the local economy.”

They continue, “the Executive Branch is not only trammeling on Congress’s exclusive appropriations powers, but also aggrandizing its own power.”

The brief by the former members of Congress joins several other briefs by current and former government officials.

The U.S. House of Representatives filed a brief in support, as did 60 former national security and State Department officials. Signers on that brief include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Former Secretary of State John Kerry and many more.

“Regardless of how you feel about immigration, or this administration, President Trump’s misuse of his presidential emergency powers should trouble us all,” Ferguson said. “As these briefs stress, our nation’s founders enshrined our system of checks and balances in our Constitution for a reason. President Trump can’t discard them to accomplish a political objective.”

Washington’s challenge

In September, Ferguson filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s diversion of nearly $89 million of congressionally approved military construction funds from the Bangor submarine base to help fund the president’s border wall. In its request for funding, the Department of Defense wrote about the Bangor pier project’s importance to military readiness.

Ferguson asserts that the Trump Administration violated the Administrative Procedure Act and Articles 1 and 2 of the U.S. Constitution with the president’s “emergency” declaration and subsequent diversion of congressionally appropriated funding. The Constitution grants Congress the exclusive power to appropriate federal funds. Ferguson also alleges multiple statutory violations, including that the president’s emergency declaration was made in bad faith.

On Oct. 16, U.S. District Court Judge Barbara J. Rothstein issued an order prohibiting the Trump Administration from diverting the $89 million in construction funds for Bangor until Feb. 1, 2020, the date by which Judge Rothstein "will endeavor to issue a decision" in the case.

Lawsuits against the Trump Administration

Ferguson has filed 50 lawsuits against the Trump Administration and has not lost a case. Ferguson has 24 legal victories against the Trump Administration. Fourteen of those cases are finished and cannot be appealed. The Trump Administration has or may appeal the other 10, which include lawsuits involving Dreamers and 3D-printed guns. No court to rule on the merits of the Attorney General’s arguments in a lawsuit against the Trump Administration has ruled against the office.


The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.


Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.aho@atg.wa.gov