The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that it's unlawful for the Trump administration to divert 2.5 billion U.S. dollars meant for the Pentagon to build part of his long-sought wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Government contractors erect a section of Pentagon-funded border wall along the Colorado River in Yuma, Ariz., September, 2019. (Photo: AP)
In a pair of 2-1 decisions, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the White House lacked constitutional authority for the transfer, noting that they found no "unforeseen military requirement" to justify the spending.
The 9th Circuit majority said the law allows for the transfer of Pentagon funds only for unanticipated military purposes, and a border wall "was not an unforeseen military requirement." Trump had argued the wall was needed to prevent drug smuggling. But the majority said Friday that drug smuggling at the border was neither a new nor an unforeseen problem.
"There was no unanticipated crisis at the border," Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas, a Clinton appointee wrote, joined by Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw, also a Clinton appointee. "Nothing prevented Congress from funding solutions to this problem through the ordinary appropriations process – Congress simply chose not to fund this particular solution."
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra praised the San Francisco-based court for halting Trump's "unlawful money grab," saying taxpayers deserve to know their money goes where Congress intends.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the decisions "a great victory for the rule of law," saying Trump undermined military readiness to fulfill his "outrageous campaign promise" to build a wall.
Whether the rulings will stand is still uncertain considered the fact that the Supreme Court in July 2019 blocked a 9th Circuit injunction that barred Trump administration from spending 2.5 billion U.S. dollars of military funds on the border wall, clearing the way for Trump to use it, which signs that a majority on the Supreme Court may overturn the 9th Circuit once again.
The Supreme Court also let the 2.5 billion U.S. dollars be spent while litigation continued, blunting the likely impact of Friday's decisions.
Friday's decisions came in two cases, one filed by California and other states, the other was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Southern Border Communities Coalition and the Sierra Club. Both suits charged that the wall would harm the environment, including endangered species. The same panel heard both.