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Trump’s use of Pentagon funds on border wall illegal, court rules

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  • A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that the Trump administration’s decision to spend Pentagon funds on a US-Mexico border wall was illegal.
  • The administration’s actions violated the Constitution’s Appropriations Clause, which gives Congress power to direct the spending of federal funds, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said.
  • A 2019 Supreme Court ruling that allowed the Trump administration to begin spending diverted Pentagon funds on the border wall raises questions over the impact the 9th Circuit’s Friday decision will have.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Trump administration broke the law in its decision to spend Pentagon funds on a wall along the US-Mexico border, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 2-1 ruling on Friday. The federal appeals court said the administration’s actions violated the Constitution’s Appropriations Clause, which says all federal spending must be specified in laws written by Congress.

“Here, the Executive Branch lacked independent constitutional authority to authorize the transfer of funds,” Judge Sidney Thomas said in his opinion. “These funds were appropriated for other purposes, and the transfer amounted to ‘drawing funds from the Treasury without authorization by statute and thus violating the Appropriations Clause.'” 

A 2019 Supreme Court ruling that allowed the Trump administration to begin spending diverted Pentagon funds on the border wall while related lawsuits made their way through the court system raises questions over the impact the 9th Circuit’s Friday decision will have. A number of other legal challenges have been made in an attempt to stop the Trump Administration from using Pentagon funds on border-wall construction, including one that is pending before the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

In January, the Trump administration said it would spend $7.2 billion of Pentagon funds allocated for other purposes on the US-Mexico border wall after Congress approved only $1.4 billion for the project in its 2019 and 2020 federal budget. The Trump administration had first asked for $5 billion but backed off that request during the government shutdown of 2018 and 2019.

The administration had already redirected around $3.6 billion designated for military construction toward the border wall in 2019 after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in which he claimed that criminal activity was being facilitated by travel across the border. The decision was criticized by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers at the time.

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