U.S. federal judge blocks use of some funds for border wall

Workers weld sections of a newly replaced border wall with Tijuana, Mexico near the the Otay Mesa border crossing in San Diego, California May 31, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

(Reuters) – A U.S. federal judge on Friday blocked the Trump administration from using $2.5 billion in funds intended for anti-drug activities to construct a wall along the southern border with Mexico.

U.S. President Donald Trump has sought to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but has so far proven unsuccessful at receiving congressional approval to do so.

In February, the Trump administration declared a national emergency to reprogram $6.7 billion in funds that Congress had allocated for other purposes to build the wall, which groups and states including California had challenged.

U.S. District Court Judge Haywood Gilliam in Oakland, California said in a pair of rulings that the Trump administration’s proposal to transfer Defense Department funds intended for anti-drug activities was unlawful.

One of Gilliam’s rulings was in a lawsuit filed by California on behalf of 20 states, while the other was in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union in coordination with the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition.

“These rulings critically stop President Trump’s illegal money grab to divert $2.5 billion of unauthorized funding for his pet project,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement, “All President Trump has succeeded in building is a constitutional crisis, threatening immediate harm to our state.”

The Justice Department, which is representing Trump in the litigation, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

Gilliam’s rulings clear the way for an expected Justice Department appeal to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Reporting by Makini Brice and Jan Wolfe in Washington; Editing by David Gregorio and Paul Simao

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