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Appeals court lifts order blocking Trump from using military funds for border wall

A federal appeals court late Wednesday lifted a lower court’s order blocking the administration from tapping into military funds to help construct President Trump‘s long-sought wall along the southern border.

The decision comes less than a month after Judge David Briones of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas dealt a blow to Trump by ruling in favor of an argument by El Paso County, Texas, and the Border Network for Human Rights that using billions in Pentagon funds for a border wall represented an overreach. 

In wake of an appeal from the Trump administration, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay of the Texas judge’s injunction. The decision reportedly divided the court along party lines, with two Republican appointees voting to temporarily lift the lower court’s order and a Democratic appointee dissenting. The case remains ongoing, CNN noted.

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In its decision, the 5th Circuit Court noted that the Supreme Court stayed a similar injunction last year to allow Trump to begin using military funds for the border wall. The most recent ruling applies to a separate set of funds, CNN noted. 

Trump hailed the court’s decision in a tweet Thursday morning. 

“Entire Wall is under construction or getting ready to start!” he said.

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White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, meanwhile, called the lower court’s ruling “illegitimate.”

“This is a victory for the rule of law,” she said in a statement. “We are committed to keeping our borders secure, and we will finish the wall.”

Last September, Defense Secretary Mark Esper authorized moving $3.6 billion in military construction funds to 11 projects pertaining to the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Defense Department said that about half of the funds were coming from international projects, and that the other half had been set for use in the U.S., according to CNN. 

Trump last February declared a national emergency to bypass Congress and spend roughly $6 billion in military funds to start building a border wall, which had become a signature promise during his 2016 campaign. 

The declaration spurred a variety of legal action. The Supreme Court in July ruled that the administration could begin using $2.5 billion in military funds to begin construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border while litigation played out. The ruling came after a lower court issued an injunction to block officials from tapping into the funds. 

El Paso County, Texas, and the Border Network for Human Rights argued in their suit that the White House was attempting to use funds for a situation that didn’t arise to an “emergency” under the National Emergencies Act. 

Kristy Parker, counsel for Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan nonprofit which represented the plaintiffs, said in a statement Wednesday that “a court has already determined that the government can’t lawfully use military construction funds to build Trump’s border wall.” 

“It’s unfortunate that the people of El Paso will continue to suffer harm while the government appeals, but we’re confident that we’ll prevail again in this next stage of litigation,” she added. 
 
— This report was updated at 9:28 a.m.

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