SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – A federal appeals court ruled against the Trump administration on Friday in its transfer of $ 2.5 billion of military construction projects to build sections of the U.S. border wall with Mexico, ruling that it illegally evaded the Congress, which decides how it uses the funds.
The United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a coalition of border states and environmental groups that argued that the money transfer was illegal and that building the wall would pose environmental threats.
The latest turn in the legal battle that has largely followed Trump’s path came after the Supreme Court previously allowed the $ 2.5 billion to be spent as the litigation continued, mitigating the impact of the court’s latest action. of appeals.
The administration has already awarded much of the money, including a $ 1.3 billion job in Arizona that was announced last month. Trump visited Yuma, Arizona, this week to mark the completion of the 200-mile border wall during his administration, largely with the transferred military funds that the Ninth Circuit panel found illegal.
After the $ 2.5 billion transfer of military funds, the Pentagon diverted another $ 3.6 billion that an appeals court in New Orleans ruled in January that they could be spent.
The panel ruled that the Trump administration not only lacked the authority to authorize the transfer of funds, “but also violated an express constitutional ban designed to protect individual liberties.”
The vote was 2-1 with judges appointed by former President Bill Clinton in the majority and a dissident candidate for Trump.
The panel also argued that the government did not demonstrate that construction of the border wall would stop the flow of illegal drugs. He said the administration had cited drug statistics but did not address how.
“The fact that the executive branch does not demonstrate, in concrete terms, that the public interest favors a border wall is particularly significant given that Congress determined that the fence is a lower budget priority and Justice Department data points to a contrary conclusion, “wrote the majority. .
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who led a coalition of attorneys general from 20 states that sued the administration, praised the decision.
“Today, the court reminded the president, once again, that no one is above the law,” he said in a statement. “As the Trump administration steals public funds to build an unauthorized wall on the southern border, families across the country struggle to pay their bills. They deserve to know that their hard-earned dollars go where Congress intended: to benefit them and their communities. ”