Judge halts some military spending on border wall

EL PASO, TEXAS (AP) – A federal judge on Tuesday blocked the Trump administration from spending some Defence Department money to build a border wall with Mexico, the latest twist in a long-running legal battle over one of the president’s signature domestic issues and campaign priorities.

The ruling by District Judge David Briones in El Paso, Texas, prevents the government from spending USD3.6 billion that was diverted in September from 127 military construction projects to pay for 175 miles of border wall.

His decision doesn’t apply to another pot of Pentagon money, USD2.5 billion that was initially meant for counter-drug operations and was redirected to wall spending. In July, the Supreme Court granted an emergency order allowing that money to be spent during a legal challenge.

The Justice Department said it would appeal Tuesday’s ruling.

Spending that was halted – at least for now – is intended for 11 projects in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The longest and most expensive by far would blanket 52 miles in Laredo, Texas, at an estimated cost of USD1.27 billion.

The Pentagon freed USD6.1 billion after Trump declared a national emergency on the Mexican border to end a government shutdown in February. Congress gave USD1.4 billion for wall construction, far less than what Trump wanted.

Briones, ruling in a case filed by El Paso County and the Border Network for Human Rights, said he didn’t want to minimise the importance of border security but “that concern cannot override the public’s interest in the Executive Branch complying with the law.”

“That is especially so when Congress – the People’s representatives – determined that securing the border required only USD1.375 billion, not USD6.1 billion, to be spent on a wall,” he wrote.