While President Joe Biden was barnstorming across Europe, America First Legal, a group founded by former President Donald Trump's top White House lieutenants, secured its first substantive win in an effort to obstruct the Biden administration's agenda.
Former senior adviser to the president Stephen Miller launched AFL in the spring of 2021 with a clear, stated objective: "Stop the constant onslaught from the radical left in Washington" through the courts.
The litigation outfit — which now boasts former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought, and former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker among its board of directors — secured favorable rulings in three related lawsuits, forcing the Biden administration to halt nearly 3,000 approved payments from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a Small Business Administration pandemic relief program, on Monday.
The program began accepting applicants on May 3 but featured a 21-day priority application window that would only approve businesses for relief if they were owned by women, veterans, or "socially and economically disadvantaged" people defined by the SBA.
AFL filed the three suits in conjunction with local restaurant owners, two in the Northern District of Texas and a third in the Eastern District of Tennessee, all of which found that the RRF was "unconstitutional" on the grounds that excluded nonprioritized applicants on the basis of race.
"When the government promulgates race-based policies, it must operate with a scalpel," the Tennessee decision reads. "And its cuts must be informed by data that suggest intentional discrimination. The broad statistical disparities cited by the government are not nearly enough."
Miller, in a statement celebrating AFL's win, claimed that Biden "has inflicted needless pain and suffering on countless Americans through its deplorable and unconstitutional scheme that sent restaurant owners — on the basis of their race — to the back of the line for a limited pool of funds."
"This illegal program sowed chaos, confusion, and heartache among restaurant owners across the country," he continued. "AFL is immensely proud of its vital work to stop this insidious and lawless attack on civil rights — and to fight for policies that judge Americans based on objective qualifications, and never based on their skin color."
Miller issued an additional warning to the president: "If you pursue government-sponsored racism in any area, then you will go to court."
An SBA spokesman declined to comment on the three suits or AFL's involvement but told the Washington Examiner that "it is the north star of the U.S. Small Business Administration to assist underserved small businesses, and we’ll continue to do so. We remain committed to doing everything we can to support disadvantaged businesses in getting the help they need to recover from this historic pandemic and restore livelihoods."
In reality, the RRF's $28.6 billion in allocated funds is already nearly exhausted. An SBA official told the Washington Examiner that, as of Wednesday, $27.4 billion had been disbursed to more than 100,000 restaurants, with $18 billion going to applicants selected inside the 21-day priority window.
The official added that there are 2,965 priority applicants, previously approved for relief, that will no longer receive funds following the court ruling, as the judges also ordered that the remainder of the tranche be disbursed to applicants passed over during the priority window. The SBA estimates that roughly 2.5 times the expected number of businesses applied to the fund, and an allocated sum of $72 billion would have been required for all of them to receive relief.
The administration held a call with those 2,965 affected restaurants on Monday to explain the situation but also stressed that they can still apply for relief through the SBA's other programs, including the Economic Injury Disaster Loans, Targeted Advance EIDL, and Supplemental Targeted Advance EIDL programs.
AFL is not the only Trump-affiliated group to launch litigation efforts against the Biden administration in 2021.
The America First Policy Institute, a nonprofit umbrella organization founded and led by Trump's Domestic Policy Council Director Brooke Rollins, launched its own Constitutional Litigation Partnership following AFL's formation.
"Federalism, free speech, and the rule of law are under attack. Big Tech, big media, and big government wield unprecedented power against the interests of the American way of life," Rollins told the Washington Examiner at the time. "Every American deserves to be heard, the courts are our last line of defense, and the Constitutional Litigation Partnership exists to tip the scales of justice in favor of the American people."
However, the AFPI's litigation center differs from AFL in that it isn't specifically aimed at obstructing the Biden administration, according to Rollins and a number of former Trump officials familiar with both groups.
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Original Author: Christian Datoc
Original Location: Top Trump officials secure first major win in blitz to stall Biden’s agenda