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Report: Trump wants $7.2 billion more Pentagon money for border wall construction

President Donald Trump makes a statement after taking a tour of border wall prototypes near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego County, Calif., on March 13, 2018. (K.C. Alfred/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)
January 14, 2020

President Donald Trump is preparing to divert another $7.2 billion from the 2020 Defense Department budget, to be used for wall construction along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a new report.

The $7.2 billion figure, would cover the cost for a 885 miles of fencing by 2022 — an increase from 509 miles already funded, the Washington Post reported on Monday, citing administration planning figures. The amount is more than five times more than the $1.375 billion Congress already approved for wall construction in 2020.

If the report is accurate, this would be the second year in a row that Trump has reassigned military spending to the border wall. The spending diversion would include $3.5 billion from the Pentagon’s existing counternarcotics funding and and $3.7 billion from military construction funding. Those numbers represent an increase from 2019’s $2.5 billion and $3.6 billion from counternarcotics and military construction, respectively.

In total, the new $7.2 billion would bring the total amount of federal funding for the wall up to $18.4 billion.

Trump made his Pentagon wall funding diversion in February 2019 as part of a national emergency declaration.

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Thus far, the Trump administration has overseen 101 miles of new wall construction, though Trump has vowed to complete 450 miles by the end of the year.

Construction has been slowed by various legal challenges throughout the Trump administration. In December, a federal court in El Paso froze the $3.6 billion allotment sourced from the Pentagon’s 2019 budget. That judges decision was overturned last week by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on a 2-1 vote by the judges involved.

The other $2.5 billion in wall funding was challenged through a similar set of court cases, before the Supreme Court settled the case in Trump’s favor in July of last year.

The 5th Circuit Court judges, who recently voted in favor of overturning blocks to the wall funding, noted that July Supreme Court decision.

Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, who has been assigned to oversee the progress on the wall, reportedly spoke with military officials in 2019 about again taking from Pentagon funds in 2020. Those talks reportedly stalled among the series of court challenges.

The July Supreme Court decision and some added assurances from the 5th Circuit Court’s recent decision may now be propelling the latest reported Pentagon funding diversion forward.

Though the courts have ruled more favorably towards Trump, Congress has challenged the 2019 emergency declaration and has successfully voted twice on measures to end the declaration, with the first effort beginning within weeks of the declaration and the second in September. Each time both the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate have voted down the declaration, but without strong enough majorities to override Trump’s veto powers.