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19 states sue Trump for moving $3.8 billion Pentagon funds to border wall

U.S. Border Patrol Agents at Border Field State Park in Imperial Beach watch over personnel that are reinforcing the border wall with concertina wire. (Mani Albrecht/U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
March 04, 2020

Nineteen states have filed lawsuits against the Trump administration for the President’s latest shift of $3.8 billion in Pentagon funds towards border wall construction on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The U.S. District Court in Northern California is the latest venue to see a legal challenge filed against President Donald Trump’s reprogramming of defense funding, Politico reported Tuesday. California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin have filed legal challenges to the changes in defense funding.

The U.S. Supreme Court previously ruled in favor of the Trump administration after he moved in 2019 to declare a national emergency on the border and reprogram more than $6 billion in defense funding. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Trump using one $2.5 billion tranche of Pentagon funds diverted to wall construction. Similar challenges have persisted against a second $3.6 billion tranche of Pentagon funds also reprogrammed by Trump in 2019.

In February, Trump announced he would reprogram another $3.8 billion in 2020 Pentagon funds, marking the second year in a row he had reassigned defense funds to construct the border wall.

Washington also recently sued to reclaim around $90 million in defense funds for projects within the state, taken from 2019 funds. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson argued the funding diversion would interfere in a construction project scheduled at the Bangor submarine base in the state and deprive the state of expected tax revenues that were supposed to come with the construction.

A federal judge in Washington has already ruled in favor of the state’s challenge and has determined that her ruling does not conflict with the prior Supreme Court decision because Washington’s case involves “different plaintiffs and materially different alleged injuries.”

The various states that have filed new lawsuits appear to follow a similar set of arguments as those presented recently in Washington. The states challenging the 2020 funding diversion are arguing the act “will cause damage to their economies, harming their proprietary interests,” according to Politico.

Fellow Republicans have also raised concerns about Trump’s funding diversions. Rep. Ken Calvert, the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee warned during a Tuesday hearing that Trump’s funding diversions could undermine the appropriations power constitutionally afforded to Congress. Top National Guard and reserve service officers at the Tuesday hearing also indicated they received minimal notice about cuts to their accounts before Trump announced the latest Pentagon funding reprogramming.

Congress has already raised two attempts to cancel Trump’s 2019 funding diversion. In both attempts, both the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and the Republican-controlled Senate had voted in favor of canceling Trump’s decision, though Trump has been able to reject the measures with his veto power.