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Federal court blocks Trump administration attempt to divert military funding for border wall
© WikiMedia (Tomas Castelazo)
Federal court blocks Trump administration attempt to divert military funding for border wall

A federal district court in Washington state on Thursday permanently enjoined the Trump administration from diverting funds meant for a submarine base in the state toward construction of the wall at the US-Mexico border.

In February last year, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019 (CAA), which provided $1.375 billion for building a border wall, far below the $5.7 billion the Trump administration had been seeking to fund the project. When President Trump signed the CAA into law, he also issued Proclamation 9844, declaring a national emergency along the southern border. Acting pursuant to 10 USC § 2808, the administration intended to divert funds that had been appropriated for other military projects to construct the border wall.

In September, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced that it would be diverting $88.96 million from the Bangor Project, a construction project that is meant to provide new facilities at the Bangor Naval Submarine Base, which is home to the Pacific Fleet’s Trident ballistic missile submarines. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued the Trump administration to keep the funding for the Bangor Project intact.

In deciding to enjoin the administration from diverting the funds, Judge Barbara Rothstein held that the diversion was in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. Specifically, § 739 of the CAA prohibited the administration from seeking border-wall funding outside of an appropriations act, and § 2808 is not an appropriations act, therefore that statute does not grant authority to divert the funds. Additionally, § 2808 only applies to military construction projects, and the court agreed with the state’s contention that the border wall does not qualify as a military construction project.

The court narrowly construed its decision, however, to just the funding for the submarine base. The state had requested that the court enjoin the administration from diverting any funds under § 2808 for building the wall, but Judge Rothstein held that “this Court is required to narrowly tailor the relief requested to fully address Washington’s alleged injuries, but no more.”

This decision follows other decisions to block the diversion of military funds for border wall construction use.