Courts weigh Trump’s plan to tap Pentagon for border wall

Friday, May 17, 2019
By Paul Martin

By DAISY NGUYEN and ELLIOT SPAGAT
APNews.com
5/17/2019

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — President Donald Trump is moving fast to spend billions of dollars to build a wall on the Mexican border with money secured under his declaration of a national emergency, but he first must get past the courts.

On Friday, a federal judge in Oakland, California, will consider arguments in two cases that seek to block the White House from spending Defense and Treasury Department money for wall construction. California and 19 other states brought one lawsuit; the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, brought the other.

On Thursday, a federal judge in the nation’s capital will consider a bid by the U.S. House of Representatives to prevent Trump from spending any Defense Department money for a border wall.

At stake is billions of dollars that would allow Trump to make major progress on a signature campaign promise heading into his campaign for a second term.

The president’s adversaries say the emergency declaration was an illegal attempt to ignore Congress, which authorized far less wall spending than Trump wanted. Trump grudgingly accepted congressional approval of $1.375 billion to end a 35-day government shutdown on Feb. 15 but declared an emergency in almost the same breath. The White House says it has identified up to $8.1 billion that it could spend.

Trump’s actions “amount to a usurpation of Congress’ legislative powers in violation of bedrock separation of powers principles embedded in the Constitution,” the state attorneys general wrote.

The administration argues that the president is protecting national security interests as unprecedented numbers of Central American asylum-seeking families arrive at the U.S. border with Mexico.

“The increasing surge of migrants, the highest in over a decade, has placed a tremendous strain on the limited resources of the Department of Homeland Security and exacerbated the risks to border security, public safety, and the safety of the migrants themselves,” the Justice Department said in a court filing.

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