Trump barred from building border wall with military funds

The district judge concluded that President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency to redirect Defence Department appropriations to a wall project that Congress specifically refused to pay for was illegal.
The district judge concluded that President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency to redirect Defence Department appropriations to a wall project that Congress specifically refused to pay for was illegal.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - A United States judge permanently barred President Donald Trump from using US$3.6 billion (S$4.89 billion) in military construction funds to pay for a wall along the border with Mexico.

Tuesday's (Dec 10) order follows an October ruling by US District Judge David Briones in El Paso, Texas, in which he concluded that Mr Trump's declaration of a national emergency to redirect Defence Department appropriations to a wall project that Congress specifically refused to pay for was illegal.

The government is appealing against the October ruling.

The decision by Mr Briones could hinder the ability of lawmakers to agree on a fiscal 2020 spending bill package this week where border wall funding is once again a key stumbling block and a shutdown looms on Dec 20.

The White House may double down on its request for more direct wall funding if the transfer option is barred.

Mr Briones found that because the administration’s actions "are unlawful and the people’s representatives – Congress – declined to augment the border wall project as defendants attempt, the public interest would be served by halting them".

The judge said he isn’t blocking the President from using US$2.5 billion in Pentagon funds earmarked for a counter-drug programme, consistent with a US Supreme Court ruling in July that let the administration move forward with building 160km of border fencing.

"The President’s emergency proclamation was a blatant attempt to grab power from Congress," said Ms Kristy Parker, a lawyer for Protect Democracy, which represents the county of El Paso and a human rights group that brought the legal challenge.

"Today’s order affirms that the President is not a king and that our courts are willing to check him when he oversteps his bounds."

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The US Court of Appeals in San Francisco is weighing separate challenges to the President’s wall funding plan brought by a coalition of states and the Sierra Club.