Trump Border Wall Judge Is Vexed by `Awfully Shifty Landscape'

(Bloomberg) -- A judge weighing whether to block President Donald Trump’s funding plan for a border wall said he may have to consider the legality of each section of the barrier as it’s proposed.

U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam hinted Friday that he supports opponents of the wall -- including 20 state attorneys general and the Sierra Club -- who contend the president overstepped his authority by announcing that he will tap funds not authorized by Congress to pay for construction. But the judge also indicated he’s reluctant to issue a broad injunction barring the government from building barriers anywhere along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“This is an awfully shifty landscape at this point,” Gilliam, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, said during a three-hour hearing in Oakland, California. “I don’t know that it is efficient or fair to have this happening on a rolling basis before the merits” of the legal challenges are decided, he said.

Congressional Democrats refused to provide $5.6 billion in funding as Trump demanded, sparking a 35-day partial shutdown of the government in December and January. Congress later allocated $1.4 billion for border security. On Feb. 15, Trump declared an emergency on the U.S. southern border, saying he wanted to build the wall sooner rather than later.

Since then, the Trump administration has unveiled at least eight projects along the border, and earmarked $5 billion to pay for some of them. But details about four of those projects in California and Arizona were disclosed in court filings only this week, giving opponents and the judge limited time to evaluate the funding mechanisms.

Gilliam directed lawyers on both sides to submit their views on the new projects within the next 10 days. The judge signaled that he may craft an order that requires his approval for each discrete project before construction contracts can be awarded and funds can be re-allocated within the federal budget.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs pushed back on that proposal, calling it a “whack-a-mole” strategy for dealing with an unconstitutional breach of power by the president. Another challenge to Trump’s funding plan, filed by Democrats in the House of Representatives. is set for a hearing in federal court in Washington on Thursday.

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