The legal battle over Defense Department funds stems from Trump’s national declaration of emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border last year. Trump extended the declaration last February, even as border arrests began to decline.
“The executive lacked independent constitutional powers to approve the transfer of funds,” Chief Justice in the Sidney Thomas Circle wrote for the majority. “The Council noted that the U.S. appropriation clause gave Congress only powers in the case of money. The council found that the transfer of funds violated the appropriations clause and was therefore illegal.”
Although the ruling on Friday is a victory for environmental groups and states challenging the use of military assets, the Supreme Court’s ruling last year that allows the use of funds remains in effect for now.
The American Civil Liberties Union welcomed Friday’s decision. “President Trump’s xenophobic wall is already leveling protected lands, desecrating cultural sites and destroying wildlife,” said Dror Ladin, a staff attorney for the ACLU’s National Security Project. “We cannot undo the damage done, but we will return to the Supreme Court to finally stop this destructive wall.”
Three years after he took office, Trump faced a series of legal challenges because of his border wall and attempts to step up efforts with additional funds from other government accounts.
Still, the president has made progress in his border wall. The administration charged Trump’s first trip to the border in 2020 this week to celebrate the completion of 200 miles of the new wall system.
“My administration has done more than any administration in history to secure our southern border. Our border has never been safer,” he told officials. Management said it intends to build 450 miles by the end of the year.
The decision allowed Defense Department money to be spent now as a court battle was played out over whether the government had the authority to divert funds not earmarked for the wall. The Supreme Court voted 5-4, along ideological lines, to allow the use of funds while court appeals continue.
The Justice and Internal Security Departments did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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