Judge stops Trump from building part of his wall while a lawsuit is pending

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A federal judge isn't buying Trump's argument that the wall has to be built right away.

Trump really wants to build his wall, but the courts keep thwarting him.

On Thursday, Trump's efforts to divert Department of Defense funds to build his wall in portions of New Mexico and Arizona were dealt yet another blow. A federal judge in California, presiding over a case brought by the ACLU on behalf of the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, held that the administration could not use those funds to build the wall while a decision in the case is pending.

The case alleges that Trump exceeded his presidential powers when he declared a national emergency and decided to divert funds for a border wall after Congress told him he couldn't. Last Friday, the judge in the case, Haywood Gilliam, issued a preliminary injunction that blocks the administration from using about $1 billion in Pentagon funds for the wall, and limits the fencing to certain areas.

A good portion of Gilliam's ruling last week was devoted to explaining that Trump shot himself in the foot regarding his national emergency declaration. That's because Trump has been talking about how much he wants the wall since his presidential run. But the very nature of an emergency — and what the administration argued — is that what happened was "unforeseen." The judge wrote that the argument the need for diverted funds was unforeseen "cannot logically be squared with the Administration's multiple requests for funding for exactly that purpose."

The preliminary injunction granted last week turns off the spigot on only some of the funding and some of the construction, and the decision can, and will, be appealed.

But having any limitations at all is too much for Trump to bear. So, the DOJ went back to the drawing board and tried to argue that they be allowed to divert the funds and build the wall right away anyway. They told the court that unless the injunction were stayed, it would "irreparably harm the Government (and the public) by prohibiting the Government from taking critical steps to stop the flow of illegal drugs from entering the country through the southern border."

That does not appear to have sat well with Gilliam. In denying the government's motion, the judge said that he doesn't think the government is likely to prevail on the merits. What that means is that he doesn't think they'll ultimately win the case — so he's not about to start letting them move funds around and start building, only to lose later.

Gilliam also took the DOJ to task, saying that in granting the injunction in the first place, "the Court rejected all of the arguments Defendants now advance regarding their intended use of funds."

It's probably inevitable that this case will end up in front of a very Trump-friendly Supreme Court — but for now, Trump is stuck.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.