A federal judge in San Francisco blocked President Trump from building key sections of his border wall with money obtained via his declaration of a national emergency, delivering at least a temporary setback to one of his highest priorities, the Associated Press reports. U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr.’s order prevents work on two of the highest-priority, Pentagon-funded wall projects — one spanning 46 miles in New Mexico and another covering five miles in Arizona. While the order applied only to those projects, the judge made clear the challengers were likely to prevail on their argument that the president was wrongly ignoring Congress’ wishes by diverting Defense Department money.
“Congress’s ‘absolute’ control over federal expenditures, even when that control may frustrate the desires of the Executive Branch regarding initiatives it views as important,is not a bug in our constitutional system. It is a feature of that system, and an essential one,” Gilliam wrote. He also rejected a request by 20 states to prevent the diversion of hundreds of millions of dollars in asset forfeiture funds to wall construction, in part because they were unlikely to prevail on arguments that the administration skirted environmental impact reviews. The administration faces several lawsuits over the emergency declaration. Only one other seeks to block construction during the legal challenge. The administration has awarded 11 wall contracts for a combined $2.76 billion, including three in the last two months that draw on Defense Department counterdrug money.