Federal Government

Trump can’t transfer military funds to build border wall, 9th Circuit rules

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border wall

The international border wall between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. Photo from Shutterstock.com.

A federal appeals court in a pair of rulings held Friday that the Trump administration’s diversion of military money to build a wall between the United States and Mexico was illegal.

In its first 2-1 opinion, in California v. Trump, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at San Francisco said President Donald Trump violated the Constitution’s appropriations clause when he transferred $2.5 billion in Department of Defense funds to construct parts of the wall in California, Arizona and New Mexico.

“The panel concluded that the district court correctly determined that the border wall was not an unforeseen military requirement, and that funding for the wall had been denied by Congress,” wrote Chief Circuit Judge Sidney Thomas, ruling in favor of California, New Mexico and several other states. “Absent such statutory authority, the executive branch lacked independent constitutional authority to transfer the funds at issue here.”

The San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, CNN and Courthouse News Service have coverage.

The court’s second 2-1 ruling Friday came in Sierra Club v. Trump, a lawsuit filed in February 2019 by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition to challenge the use of funds. In this case, the 9th Circuit also held that the Trump administration “lacked independent constitutional authority” to transfer military funds for construction of the border wall.

“The panel noted that the appropriations clause of the U.S. Constitution exclusively grants the power of the purse to Congress,” Thomas wrote again for the majority. “The panel held that the transfer of funds violated the appropriations clause and, therefore, was unlawful.”

Dror Ladin, staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, said in a June 26 press release that “this ruling is a win for the rule of law, the environment and border communities.”

“President Trump’s xenophobic wall is already leveling protected lands, desecrating cultural sites and destroying wildlife,” Ladin said. “There’s no undoing the damage that’s been done, but we will be back before the Supreme Court to finally put a stop to this destructive wall.”

Last July, the U.S. Supreme Court lifted an injunction that had blocked Trump from using the military funds to build part of the border wall. That decision allowed the administration to continue using the funds while court appeals proceeded.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Judiciary has no jurisdiction to decide Congress’ suit over border wall funds, federal judge rules”

ABAJournal.com: “Can Trump legally use emergency powers to build a border wall? Experts weigh in”

ABAJournal.com: “House sues to block Trump’s use of funds for border wall”

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