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House Armed Services Committee Denies Pentagon From Shifting $1 Billion To Build Border Wall

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(Reuters) — The U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee on Tuesday denied the Pentagon’s plan to shift $1 billion to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico, intensifying the conflict over President Donald Trump’s signature campaign pledge.


Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan announced on Monday that the Department of Defense had shifted $1 billion from other military construction projects to build part of the barrier along the southern border.

Democratic Representative Adam Smith, the committee’s chairman, said the panel did not approve the proposed use of Pentagon funds.

His action could end up being symbolic, as the Pentagon insists it has the authority to shift the money. However, it could prompt Congress to change the law to prevent presidents from taking similar action in the future.

A court battle over the issue is also likely.

“The committee denies this request. The committee does not approve the proposed use of Department of Defense funds to construct additional physical barriers and roads or install lighting in the vicinity of the United States border,” Smith said in a letter to the Department of Defense.

U.S. lawmakers – mostly Democrats, but also some of Trump’s fellow Republicans – have been furious at Trump’s declaring a national emergency along the Mexico border in an attempt to pay for the wall after Congress did not approve funding.

The House was due to vote later on Tuesday on a long-shot effort to override Trump’s veto of a resolution disapproving of his emergency declaration, which he used to justify transferring Pentagon funds.

Smith announced the denial of the $1 billion transfer in a statement as his committee held a hearing on the Pentagon budget.

Smith told the hearing that Trump’s proposed $750 billion defense budget would not pass as it was proposed. That budget included $100 billion in a “slush fund” meant to fund ongoing wars but which the Pentagon intends to use to boost the amount of money it has available to avoid budget caps passed by Congress, worrying lawmakers.

Shanahan’s decision to shift military dollars to pay for the wall without consulting Congress could lead lawmakers to cut off the Pentagon’s authority to reprogram funds.

“DoD is attempting to circumvent Congress and the American people’s opposition to using taxpayer money for the construction of an unnecessary wall, and the military is paying the cost,” Smith said in a statement accompanying the letter.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Idrees Ali; Editing by Dan Grebler

National Emergency

Trump told CBP head he’d pardon him if he were sent to jail for violating immigration law

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 During President Donald Trump’s visit to the border at Calexico, California, a week ago, where he told border agents to block asylum seekers from entering the US contrary to US law, the President also told the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, Kevin McAleenan, that if he were sent to jail as a result of blocking those migrants from entering the US, the President would grant him a pardon, senior administration officials tell CNN.

Two officials briefed on the exchange say the President told McAleenan, since named the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, that he “would pardon him if he ever went to jail for denying US entry to migrants,” as one of the officials paraphrased.

It was not clear if the comment was a joke; the official was not given any further context on the exchange.

The White House referred CNN to the Department of Homeland Security. A DHS spokesman told CNN, “At no time has the President indicated, asked, directed or pressured the Acting Secretary to do anything illegal. Nor would the Acting Secretary take actions that are not in accordance with our responsibility to enforce the law.”

(CNN)

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National Emergency

US States Sue To Block Trump Admistration From Diverting State Funds To Build Border Wall

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FILE - In this Oct. 26, 2018, file photo, mounted Border Patrol agents ride along a newly fortified border wall structure in Calexico, Calif. President Donald Trump is visiting Calexico on Friday, April 5, 2019, to tour the recently-built portion of the border fence that bears a silver plaque with his name on it. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California and 19 other states that are suing President Donald Trumpover his emergency declaration to build a border wall have requested a court order to stop money from being diverted to fund the project.


California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Friday that the group took action to prevent $1.6 billion from being siphoned away from fighting drug trafficking and funding military construction projects.

Becerra says it’s important to block the diversion of funds before it happens because it will harder to replace if the money is committed to border wall construction .

The action is part of the states’ lawsuit challenging Trump’s emergency declaration to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The coalition says the declaration was unconstitutional because it bypasses the role of Congress to authorize funding.

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National Emergency

Acting Defense Secretary OKs $1 Billion For Border Wall

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has authorized the Army Corps of Engineers to begin planning and building 57 miles of 18-foot-high fencing in Yuma, Arizona, and El Paso, Texas, along the U.S. border with Mexico.


The Pentagon says it will divert up to $1 billion to support the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection. The funding would also go toward installing lighting and constructing roads in those areas.

Shanahan says the Corps’ focus will be on blocking “drug-smuggling corridors.”

The El Paso sector has suddenly become the second-busiest corridor for illegal border crossings after Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, many of them asylum-seeking families from Central America. The Yuma sector has also witnessed a jump in illegal crossings, particularly Guatemalan families in remote areas.

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