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Washington sues Trump over transfer of $89M from Puget Sound Navy base to border wall

Work has started on the construction of a stretch of secondary border fence along the US-Mexico border in San Diego, on the left.. The construction site is just next to the area at right were where eight prototype walls are visible that were constructed in 2017 to evaluate and choose features for next generation barriers. It was announced Friday by a CBP spokesman that they will soon be demolished.(John Gibbins/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

Washington sued the Trump administration again, this time over the decision to take $89 million from the military construction budget for a Puget Sound project and spend it instead on barriers along the border with Mexico.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the move, which President Donald Trump said was necessary to address a national emergency, violates federal law and the U.S. Constitution.

At a press conference with Gov. Jay Inslee shortly after the suit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, Ferguson called the shifting of money “an end-around Congress” and “an egregious abuse of power” because Congress refused to give Trump all the money he requested for the wall.

The money was allocated by Congress to begin work on construction at the Bangor Naval Station, where nuclear-armed submarines are based. It was to be used to build a pier and a maintenance facility for vessels that provide security for the subs until they dive in the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

It was among projects the Pentagon announced earlier this month would be delayed so that some $3.6 billion in military construction could be rerouted to build portions of the border wall.

But the law on shifting money in the face of a national emergency doesn’t allow such a transfer, Ferguson said.

“Military construction funds must go to another military construction project. The border wall is not a military construction project,” he said.

The need for the border wall also doesn’t meet the requirements of a national emergency because so much time passed between the time Trump declared the emergency and the money was transferred, he added.

Ferguson questioned the administration’s authority to transfer funds that had been allocated for other things by Congress when the plan was announced in February. But the state didn’t join previous lawsuits because there was no proof Washington would be affected until the list of projects was announced this month.

Federal courts have ruled the administration has the authority to take money from other budgets. Assistant Attorney General Andrew Hughes said this may be the first court challenge filed over the transfer of military construction funds.

It would be the 48th lawsuit the state has filed over actions by the Trump administration, and a 49th is likely in the coming weeks. The state has won 21 of those actions, and the remainder are still pending.

On Monday, Ferguson and Inslee warned that the state would file a lawsuit over another initiative Trump announced recently, to block the ability of states to require stricter emissions standards on vehicles than the federal government sets. Washington would likely join other states in challenging that rule.

“We ought to be able to have more efficient cars to drive,” Inslee said.


© 2019 The Spokesman-Review