The Slatest

Judge Blocks Trump From Using Defense Department Funds to Build Border Wall

President Donald Trump calls up Blake Marnell, wearing a jacket with bricks representing a border wall, to the stage during a campaign rally at Williamsport Regional Airport, May 20, 2019 in Montoursville, Pennsylvania.
President Donald Trump calls up Blake Marnell, wearing a jacket with bricks representing a border wall, to the stage during a campaign rally at Williamsport Regional Airport, May 20, 2019 in Montoursville, Pennsylvania.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A federal judge in California temporarily blocked the use of some Defense Department funds to build sections of the planned border wall with Mexico. Judge Haywood Gilliam of the Northern District of California prevented the government from using $1 billion from military accounts to begin construction on two sections of the wall—one 46-mile stretch in New Mexico and another 5-mile stretch in Yuma, Arizona. Construction was set to begin as early as Saturday.

Gilliam didn’t rule on the administration’s diversion of another $3.6 billion from Defense funds for the wall because the administration had not outlined plans for that cash. But in his ruling, Gilliam made clear that challenges to other sections of the wall are also likely to prevail as long as they involve the president ignoring the wishes of Congress by diverting money from the Defense Department. “Congress’s ‘absolute’ control over federal expenditures—even when that control may frustrate the desires of the Executive Branch regarding initiatives it views as important—is not a bug in our constitutional system. It is a feature of that system, and an essential one,” Gilliam wrote. The judge emphasized that he wasn’t ruling on whether “the challenged border barrier construction plan is wise or unwise” but rather on how it was being paid for.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition and celebrated the ruling on Friday night. “This is a win for our system of checks and balances, the rule of law, and border communities,” ACLU wrote on Twitter. The ACLU also posted a video of Trump promising to build the wall: “Saying it louder for the people in the back: A federal court just blocked the illegal wall construction.”