Trump’s $3.8 Billion Border Wall Diversion Targeted by ACLU

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(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration is violating the Constitution by diverting an additional $3.8 billion in military funds to his planned U.S. border wall with Mexico, a new lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and Sierra Club claims.

Filed Friday in federal court in San Francisco, the suit says the administration illegally bypassed Congress when President Donald Trump tapped money earmarked for weapons systems and other military expenditures. The construction will also have devastating effects on the environment, according to the complaint.

The suit was filed in federal court in San Francisco -- the same court that last year repeatedly found Trump’s initial transfer of over $6 billion in military funds for the wall was unlawful.

“Multiple courts have ruled that President Donald Trump has no authority to spend billion of dollars appropriated for the military to carry out his campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border,” the complaints says. “Rather than abide by these decisions, President Trump has doubled down on diverting military funds to border wall construction.”

The president notched a win in July, however, when the Supreme Court said he could use some military funds even while lawsuits made their way through the legal system.

Just yesterday, a federal judge in Seattle barred the government from diverting $89 million to the wall from a construction project at a submarine base in Washington state. The diversion of funds intended for military has attracted criticism on both sides of the aisle.

Trump and his Republican allies have argued that a border wall with Mexico is urgently needed to stem the flow of tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants entering the country illegally from Central and South America. The administration has argued the immigrants are a drain on taxpayer resources and a threat to public safety.

Waste of Money

But Congress has largely refused to fund Trump’s wall at the level necessary to construct even a substantial portion of it. Democrats have called the wall a waste of money and a symbol of the president’s negative view of immigrants.

Congress’s 2020 appropriations bill, which Trump signed into law in December, included $1.37 billion for the wall project -- the same amount Congress approved in 2019 and far less than the president requested, according to the complaint. Despite that limitation, Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Feb. 13 said the Pentagon would divert $3.8 billion in 2020 military funds to the wall, the suit says.

The same day, Trump extended the national emergency he declared last year to circumvent Congress.

“The destruction of cultural sites, Tribal burial grounds, endangered species, protected cacti and water resources shows that Trump will stop at nothing for this wall — not irreplaceable resources nor the Constitution,” Gloria Smith, a lawyer for the Oakland, California-based Sierra Club, said in a statement.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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