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No Defense Department Money for Border Wall, Court Orders -- Update

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12/10/2019 | 08:50pm EST

By Alicia A. Caldwell

A federal judge in Texas has blocked the Trump administration from using billions of dollars in funding from the Defense Department to pay for construction of a long-promised wall on the Mexican border.

U.S. District Judge David Briones issued an injunction blocking the federal government from using $3.6 billion previously earmarked for about 127 military construction projects to fund the wall, as President Trump ordered under an emergency declaration earlier this year. Judge Briones said the administration can only use $1.375 billion approved by Congress for the 2019 budget year for the wall.

The case was filed by El Paso County and the advocacy group Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso.

"The president's emergency proclamation was a blatant attempt to grab power from Congress," said Kristy Parker, a lawyer for Protect Democracy, which represented the plaintiffs. "Today's order affirms that the president is not a king and that our courts are willing to check him when he oversteps his bounds. This is a huge win for democracy and the rule of law."

The Justice Department said it would appeal the ruling.

Mr. Trump declared a national emergency over border security in February and at the time ordered agencies across the government to identify military and other spending that could be diverted for the wall project.

In July, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the administration could move the military money to pay for wall construction, a signature campaign promise that has yet to be fulfilled.

In his ruling, Judge Briones, who was appointed by President Clinton, said the permanent injunction didn't conflict with the Supreme Court ruling because the high court ruled on whether the defense secretary exceeded his authority to redirect military construction funds, an issue he didn't take up in this case.

Write to Alicia A. Caldwell at Alicia.Caldwell@wsj.com

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