President Donald Trump’s “big, beautiful” vanity project is facing more setbacks after a federal judge on Friday night temporarily halted construction of a wall on the southern U.S. border because the project’s funding likely is illegal.
U.S. District Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr., of the Northern District of California, ruled in favor of a preliminary injunction sought by the plaintiffs in the case, the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition. The lawsuit seeks to prevent officers from the executive branch from using redirected federal funds to build the border wall.
“The case is not about whether the challenged border barrier construction plan is wise or unwise. It is not about whether the plan is the right or wrong policy response to existing conditions at the southern border of the United States,” Gilliam wrote in the ruling. “…Instead, this case presents strictly legal questions regarding whether the proposed plan for funding border barrier construction exceeds the Executive Branch’s lawful authority under the Constitution and a number of statutes duly enacted by Congress.”
At the center of the case is the Trump administration’s efforts to circumvent Congress to obtain border wall funding by shifting about $1 billion from military pay and pension accounts, according to The Washington Post.
Trump also declared a national emergency over the border situation in February in an effort to obtain wall funding. However, according to the Post, no funds have yet been transferred from an emergency military construction fund, which is at the center of Trump’s national emergency strategy. But Gilliam said he also would rule on that funding—about $3.6 billion—if the administration attempted to shift it to fund border wall construction in the future.
In other words, Trump’s strategy to bypass Congress on border wall spending is backfiring spectacularly, at least for now.
The sections of planned wall construction addressed by Friday’s ruling are located in El Paso, Texas, and Yuma, Arizona. Construction was set to begin as early as today.
Gilliam said Trump’s strategy “does not square with fundamental separation of powers principles dating back to the earliest days of our Republic.”
Dror Ladin, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, who argued the case on behalf of the plaintiffs, called the ruling “a win for our system of checks and balances, the rule of law, and border communities.” Ladin added that, “The court blocked all the wall projects currently slated for immediate construction. If the administration begins illegally diverting additional military funds, we’ll be back in court to block that as well.”
In issuing Friday’s injunction, Gilliam, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, said the plaintiffs have a good chance of winning the case.
In a separate but similar case brought by two dozen states, Gilliam said the plaintiffs, led by California, had not demonstrated irreparable harm to prompt a similar injunction, the Post reported.
So, we know Mexico isn’t paying for the wall, as Trump promised repeatedly, and it looks like the U.S. military won’t be paying for it anytime soon, either. So much winning in this administration.