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Court blocks Trump from using $90 million in Pentagon funds for border wall

President Donald Trump visits the U.S.-Mexico border, east of the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego on September 18, 2019. (John Gibbins/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)
February 28, 2020

A federal court judge has blocked President Donald Trump’s use of $89 million in Pentagon funds originally bound for military projects in Washington state to fund construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Judge Barbara Rothstein in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington on Thursday ruled in favor of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson who sued to win back Washington’s control of Pentagon funds originally planned to go to the Bangor submarine base in Kitsap, Wash. In a statement, Ferguson touted the latest decision as a victory in opposition to the border wall funding attempt.

The funding relates to Trump’s decision in 2019 to declare a national emergency along the southern border and move more than $6 billion in Pentagon funds over to the border security effort. The funding has drawn from military construction projects in various states and was drawn out in two tranches of $2.5 billion and $3.6 billion in total.

“This judgment is an important victory for the rule of law, and the system of checks and balances our founders enshrined in our Constitution,” Ferguson’s said in his statement following the ruling. “We’re looking forward to this $89 million being used the way Congress intended — to support a military construction project in Washington state.”

Trump’s efforts to reprogram Pentagon funds have survived numerous challenges. Congress has voted twice to rescind the national emergency declaration and return the defense funds to their original programs, though Trump has defeated the legislative efforts with his veto power.

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Previous efforts to block the defense funds through the courts have also failed, and the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled in favor of allowing the first $2.5 billion spending allotment to go toward the border wall. Courts have continued to challenge the funds named in the second $3.6 billion portion of Pentagon funding.

Judge Rothstein said her ruling does not conflict with the Supreme Court’s prior decision because this new case “involves different plaintiffs and materially different alleged injuries.”

The state argued that the loss of the Pentagon funds bound for construction at the Bangor submarine base would directly result in losses of expected tax revenue from the project.

“I am pleased that the Court agreed that money from Washington state projects should not be diverted to help subsidize President Trump’s border wall,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “Washington will continue to fight against any proposed efforts to move funds out of our state for unlawful and unconstitutional purposes. I thank the Attorney General for his continued fight on behalf of Washingtonians.”