Trump's spending for border wall rejected by US appeals court

That ruling, however, is mostly symbolic

Photo: AP Government contractors erect a section of Pentagon-funded border wall along the Colorado River in 2019

The President of the United States Donald Trump was wrong to divert $2.5bn meant for the Pentagon to build part of his long-sought wall along the US-Mexico border, a federal appeals court said on Friday. According to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, the White House lacked constitutional authority for the transfer, noting that Congress had denied the funding and finding no “unforeseen military requirement” to justify it.

The court also said California and New Mexico, which share a border with Mexico and were among 20 states suing the government, had legal standing to pursue their claims. The appeals court also ruled that the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition could sue over the diversion and deserved an injunction.

Trump had declared a national emergency at the border in February 2019 to access the funds. Writing for the majority, however, Chief Judge Sidney Thomas said “the Executive Branch’s failure to show, in concrete terms, that the public interest favors a border wall is particularly significant given that Congress determined fencing to be a lower budgetary priority and the Department of Justice’s own data points to a contrary conclusion.”

That ruling may be symbolic, after the US Supreme Court said last July the nonprofits likely had no legal right to sue. The Supreme Court also let the $2.5bn be spent while litigation continued. That blunts the likely impact of Friday’s decisions, which totaled 184 pages and upheld lower court rulings. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, however, praised the San Francisco-based appeals court for halting Trump’s “unlawful money grab,” and said taxpayers deserve to know their money goes where Congress intends.

The Justice Department had no immediate comment.

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