(Reuters) – A federal appeals court said Friday that United States President Donald Trump was wrong to divert $ 2.5 billion to the Pentagon to build part of his long-sought wall along the U.S. border. United and Mexico.
FILE PHOTO – United States President Donald Trump runs through a section of the recently built Mexico-United States border wall in San Luis, Arizona, USA, June 23, 2020. REUTERS / Carlos Barria
In a pair of 2-1 decisions, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said the White House lacked constitutional authority for the transfer, noting that Congress had denied funding and found no “unforeseen military requirements” for justify it.
The court also said that California and New Mexico, which share a border with Mexico and were among the 20 states that sued the government, had the legal capacity to sue.
Chief Justice Sidney Thomas said that “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 the data of the Justice Department point to the opposite conclusion. ”
Trump had declared a national border emergency in February 2019 to access the funds.
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra praised the San Francisco-based court for stopping Trump’s “illegal money capture”, saying taxpayers deserve to know that their money is going where Congress intends.
The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, called the decisions “a great victory for the rule of law”, saying that Trump undermines the military readiness to fulfill his “scandalous campaign promise” to build a Wall.
The appeals court also ruled that Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition could sue for the diversion and deserved a court order.
That decision may be symbolic because the United States Supreme Court said last July that nonprofits probably had no legal right to sue.
The Supreme Court also allowed $ 2.5 billion to be spent as the litigation continued, mitigating the likely impact of Friday’s decisions.
President Bill Clinton appointed both judges on the majority on Friday. Trump appointed the dissenting judge. Friday’s decisions totaled 184 pages and confirmed the rulings of the lower courts.
The cases are California et al v Trump et al, United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 19-16299 and 19-16336; and Sierra Club and others against Trump and others in the same court, numbers 19-16102 and 19-16300.
Report by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Sonya Hepinstall