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Federal Judge Blocks Trump From Using $3.6 Billion in Military Funds to Build Border Wall

December 11, 2019, 1:47 PM UTC

A U.S. judge barred President Donald Trump from using $3.6 billion in military construction funds to pay for a wall along the Mexico border.

Tuesday’s order follows an October ruling by U.S. District Judge David Briones in El Paso, Texas, in which he concluded that Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to redirect Defense Department appropriations to a wall project that Congress specifically refused to pay for was illegal. The government is appealing the October ruling.

The decision by 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 Dec. 20. The White House may double down on its request for more direct wall funding if the transfer option is barred.

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 $2.5 billion in Pentagon funds earmarked for a counter-drug program, consistent with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in July that let the administration move forward with building 100 miles of border fencing. Trump praised the high court’s ruling at the time.

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrumpWow! Big VICTORY on the Wall. The United States Supreme Court overturns lower court injunction, allows Southern Border Wall to proceed. Big WIN for Border Security and the Rule of Law!

Sent via Twitter for iPhone.

View original tweet.

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

“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,” said Kristy Parker, a lawyer for Protect Democracy, which represents the county of El Paso and a human rights group that brought the legal challenge.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, called Tuesday’s ruling “a victory for the rule of law.”

“Once again, the courts have resoundingly ruled against the President’s attempt to negate our system of separation of powers, which is the genius of our Constitution, by assaulting Congress’s exclusive constitutional power of the purse,” Pelosi said in a statement.

The U.S. 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.

The case is El Paso County, Texas v. Trump, 19-cv-00066, U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas (El Paso).

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