The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said Trump’s attempt to use congressionally appropriated funds was clearly “unlawful.”
The Trump administration cannot legally divert military-earmarked funds to construct improve barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.
According to CNN, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals announced its decision Friday. The panel found, in a 2-1 ruling, that the Trump administration lacked appropriate authority to redirect funds appropriated by Congress for a specific purpose.
President Donald Trump—as LegalReader has reported before—tried to circumvent congressional appropriations regulations by declaring a state of emergency along the United States’ southern border.
However, the 9th Circuit Court unambiguously called Trump’s attempted maneuver “unlawful.”
“The Executive Branch lacked independent constitutional authority to authorize the transfer of funds,” Chief Circuit Judge Sidney Thomas wrote for the majority. “The panel noted that the Appropriations Clause of the U.S. Constitution exclusively grants the power of the purse to Congress. The panel held that the transfer of funds violated the Appropriations Clause, and, therefore, was unlawful.”
Thomas also questioned the logic behind President Trump’s declaration of emergency.
“There was no unanticipated crisis at the border,” Thomas wrote. “Nothing prevented Congress from funding solutions to this problem through the ordinary appropriations process—Congress simply chose not to fund this particular solution.”
The Los Angeles Times notes that Judge Daniel P. Collins, a Trump appointee, dissented. In his dissenting opinion, Collins said that combating drug smuggling is “plainly” a military priority, and that the administration should therefore be able to redirect funds appropriated by Congress.
California Attorney Xavier Becerra said the judgment reaffirms rule of law.
“Today, the court reminded the president—once again—that no one is above the law,” Becerra said. “We applaud the court for taking action to immediately halt Trump’s unlawful money grab.”
Becerra, says NBC News, had led a coalition of attorneys general in suing the administration on its wall construction program. Similar lawsuits were brought forward by private advocacy groups and non-profit organizations, which included immigrant rights projects and environmental activists.
The American Civil Liberties Union was quick to cheer the court’s verdict, even though a prior Supreme Court decision permits the military funds to be used by the administration.
Nevertheless, the ACLU and its allies are hopeful that the panel’s decision will stop the Trump administration from beginning or continuing construction in environmentally and culturally sensitive areas.
“President Trump’s xenophobic wall is already levelling protected lands, desecrating cultural sites, and destroying wildlife,” said ACLU National Security Project staff attorney Dror Ladin. “There’s no undoing the damage that’s been done, but we will be back before the Supreme Court to finally put a stop to this destructive wall.”