Pentagon & Congress

Judge rejects Congress’ challenge of border wall funding

WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Monday denied a House request to prevent President Donald Trump from tapping Defense Department money for his proposed border wall with Mexico, saying Congress lacked authority to sue.

Trump’s victory is muted by a federal ruling in California last month that blocked construction of key sections of the wall. The California case was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition.

U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee, wrote that the House’s lawsuit was “about whether one chamber of Congress has the ‘constitutional means’ to conscript the Judiciary in a political turf war with the President over the implementation of legislation.”

McFadden said Congress didn’t have authority in this case but that he didn’t mean to imply the legislative body could never challenge the president in court over separation of powers.

“An old maxim in politics holds that, ‘Where you stand depends on where you sit,’” he wrote. “At law too, whether a plaintiff has standing often depends on where he sits. A seat in Congress comes with many prerogatives, but legal standing to superintend the execution of laws is not among them.”

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan speaks with troops near McAllen, Texas, on May 11, 2019, about the military’s role in support of the Department of Homeland Security’s effort to secure the Southwest border. (Robert Burns/AP)
Shanahan says military won’t leave until US-Mexico border is secure

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan visited a border city in Texas on Saturday and said he intends to accelerate planning to secure the border and bolster the administration’s ability to accomplish that without the Pentagon’s continuous help.

The Justice Department welcomed the decision, saying the judge “rightly ruled that the House of Representatives cannot ask the judiciary to take its side in political disputes and cannot use federal courts to accomplish through litigation what it cannot achieve using the tools the Constitution gives to Congress.”

A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Democrats were reviewing the ruling and evaluating whether to appeal.

A federal judge in Oakland, California, ruled May 24 that Trump overstepped his authority and blocked work from beginning on two of the highest-priority, Pentagon-funded wall projects — one spanning 46 miles (74 kilometers) in New Mexico and another covering 5 miles (8 kilometers) in Yuma, Arizona. The administration plans to appeal the ruling by Haywood Gilliam Jr., an appointee of President Barack Obama.

At stake is billions of dollars that would allow Trump to make progress on a signature campaign promise heading into his bid for a second term. The administration faces several lawsuits over the emergency declaration but only two sought to block construction during the legal challenge.

In this April 10, 2000, file photo, a marker embedded in the pavement marks the imaginary line between the United States and Mexico at the San Ysidro border checkpoint between San Diego, Calif., and Tijuana, Mexico. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)
Armed Mexican soldiers confronted US soldiers on US soil

Two U.S. soldiers in a remote area of Texas were confronted by Mexican soldiers who thought the Americans had crossed into Mexico, U.S. officials said Tuesday. The Mexican troops reportedly removed a weapon from the American soldier who was armed.

Trump declared a national emergency in February after losing a fight with the Democratic-led House that led to a 35-day government shutdown and identified up to $8.1 billion for wall construction. The funds include $3.6 billion from military construction funds, $2.5 billion from Defense Department counterdrug activities and $600 million from the Treasury Department’s asset forfeiture fund.

The Defense Department has already transferred the counterdrug money. Patrick Shanahan, the acting defense secretary, is expected to decide any day whether to transfer the military construction funds.

Spagat reported from San Diego.

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