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Trump may take money from Puerto Rico disaster funds for border wall



President Donald Trump was reportedly briefed on a proposal that would divert $13.9 billion from civil-works projects, including reconstruction efforts in Puerto Rico, to build a barrier on the US-Mexico border, according to multiple news reports published Thursday.

The funds from the Army Corps of Engineers had not yet been distributed, but with a national emergency declaration, Trump would be able to procure the barrier funding that Democrats have adamantly opposed, officials told CNN and NBC News.

The plan would reportedly allow Trump to utilize the $2.4 billion and $2.5 billion set aside for civil projects ranging from flood prevention in California, to reconstruction efforts in the hurricane-affected US territory of Puerto Rico.

An independent study commissioned by the Puerto Rican government estimated roughly 2,975 people died in the wake of Hurricane Maria. While many of the victims were believed to have died in the aftermath of the storm, such as floods and flying debris, other people were reportedly affected by the lack of local infrastructure, including electricity, clean water, and medical services.

A woman tries to walks out from her house after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Salinas, Puerto Rico, September 21, 2017.
REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to fund a barrier on the border has been rejected by Democrats, blocking the passage of an appropriations bill that would reopen the ongoing partial government shutdown. Democrats have asserted they would pass a bill that includes funding for additional border security measures, but not the money Trump wants build a border wall.

Trump was reportedly briefed that the Army Corps of Engineers could build 315 miles of the border wall in around 18 months, which is more than the 234 miles he initially requested. Democrats may still have an option to oppose the move, a source explained to NBC News, by blocking the reallocation through legislation.

After weeks of the shutdown, Trump appears likelier to invoke executive authority to declare a national emergency, a move Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham supported.

“Time for President [Donald Trump] to use emergency powers to build Wall/Barrier,” Graham tweeted on Thursday. “I hope it works.”

Trump and other White House officials have teased the option numerous times in recent days, saying the president would make the declaration if Congress does not give in to his wall funding.

“Well, I think we’re going to see what happens over the next few days, they should do it immediately,” Trump said on Thursday. “Look, we’re not going anywhere. We’re not changing our minds. Because there’s nothing to change your mind about.”

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