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Federal judge blocks $2.5B in border wall spending

By Sommer Brokaw
Federal judge blocks $2.5B in border wall spending
The U.S. - Mexico border fence is shown in Imperial Beach, California. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

June 29 (UPI) -- A federal judge has blocked $2.5 billion in spending for the Trump administration's border wall.

U.S. District Court Judge Haywood S. Gillam Jr. of the Northern District of California ruled Friday that President Donald Trump's attempt to shift $2.5 billion from the Department of Defense toward the border project along the United States southwestern border was "unlawful."

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Construction of the border wall using the funds was otherwise set to begin as early as Monday.

The decision stems from a pair of lawsuits including one the American Civil Liberties Union filed on behalf of the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, arguing that the president abused his emergency powers by declaring a national emergency in February to fund the border wall. The other was filed by the state of California and 19 other states.

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His decision on both cases prevents the use of the $2.5 billion in funds for border wall projects in El Paso, Texas, Tucson and Yuma, Ariz., and El Centro, Calif.

"Congress was clear in denying funds for Trump's xenophobic obsession with a wasteful, harmful wall," ACLU attorney Dror Ladin said. "This decision upholds the basic principle that the president has no pwer to spend taxpayer money without Congress' approval. We will continue to defend this core principle of our democracy, which the courts have recognized for centuries."

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Attorneys for the Sierra Club and SBCC's added that construction of wall sections would worsen flooding, destroy lands and wildlife and waste precious resources.

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Trump, during a news conference in Tokyo, blasted the decision.

"We'll appeal it right away," Trump said. "Ninth Circuit, as usual. They go right into that Ninth Circuit. The good news: I put a lot of judges in, and a number of them are in the Ninth Circuit now. And it's very unfair. It's very unfair when a judge can do what they do, where a judge in a certain area can close down a country."

He noted "a lot of wall is being built."

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Trump's emergency declaration to divert $6.7 billion for the wall came after the longest government shutdown in history following Congress' refusal to authorize funding he wanted for the border wall.

Gillam's ruling blocked the use of any of the $2.5 billion in funds being diverted from counterdrug programs in the Department of Defense.

The Trump administration identified two other sources for the border wall fund using the president's national emergency declaration, including $3.6 billion from military construction projects and $601 million from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund.

The court hasn't taken action on wall spending from the $3.6 billion in military construction projects.

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