President Donald Trump is planning to divert an additional $7.2 billion from the Department of Defense in order to fund his wall along the southern border with Mexico, The Washington Post reported Monday.
The Post obtained internal figures showing the White House plans. If they go forward, it would be the second time the president has ordered that funds allocated to the Pentagon by Congress be diverted for wall construction, effectively bypassing lawmakers in an attempt to unilaterally deliver on a campaign promise. Trump has vowed to build 450 miles of new wall by the end of 2020 in hopes of galvanizing his political base before the next election.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump declared a national emergency last February in order to build his much-touted border wall, saying the White House planned to divert $3.6 billion in funds from Pentagon construction projects to help pay for it. The proposal drew widespread fury from Congress and a spate of lawsuits. The Supreme Court, however, said in July that Trump had the authority to use the money for the wall, and subsequent challenges have been knocked back by the courts.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit lifted an injunction from a lower court and said the diversion of Pentagon funds could go forward. The Pentagon said in September the initial funding diversion would delay or suspend 127 military construction projects both in the U.S. and overseas.
“This is a victory for the rule of law,” Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, said in a statement at the time. “We are committed to keeping our borders secure, and we will finish the wall.”
The Post noted that the latest plans would bring the total figure for border funding past $18 billion if they go forward, enough for about 885 miles of fencing.
The federal government has built about 100 miles of new barriers as of last week, which Homeland Security officials have touted as a “milestone” for the country.
“This would not have been possible without the President’s steadfast determination and leadership,” Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said at an event to celebrate the completion of the 100th mile in Arizona last week. “The new border wall system is an undeniable impediment to human smugglers, drug traffickers and other criminals who have exploited our lack of effective border infrastructure to smuggle drugs, people and illegal contraband into our country.”
The president has remained determined to see hundreds of miles of the border barrier built before the end of the year, an effort to deliver on a campaign promise that has stoked fury among Democratic lawmakers who claim such barriers are ineffective and expensive.
Congress has tried twice to pass resolutions meant to end Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, but the president has vetoed both efforts. A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers has vowed to vote through such measures every six months, as allowed by law.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner was tapped in November to become the point person on issues related to the wall, adding to an already huge portfolio of White House responsibilities. The Post reported at the time that Kushner holds regular meetings with Cabinet-level officials and has wide authority to allocate resources in order to get the structure built.