(CN) — A federal judge in Seattle on Thursday permanently blocked the Trump administration from diverting $89 million in congressionally approved military construction funding to help build a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In a 38-page order, U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein granted summary judgment to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who challenged the Trump administration’s plan to “reprogram” or divert $89 million from the Naval Submarine Base Bangor on the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington, home to nuclear-powered submarines that carry nuclear warheads, to fund border wall construction.
But the judge declined to enjoin the federal government from redirecting all of the $3.6 billion in military construction funds that had been redirected to 11 projects at the Mexican border, meaning funding diverted from other states’ military projects can still be redirected to build the wall.
“This judgment is an important victory for the rule of law, and the system of checks and balances our founders enshrined in our Constitution,” Ferguson said in a statement.
“We’re looking forward to this $89 million being used the way Congress intended — to support a military construction project in Washington state.”
Rothstein found the state has standing to bring claims that the administration’s decision to divert congressionally approved military funds to 11 border barrier construction projects violated the Administrative Procedures Act.
The judge noted the potential consequences the state could face should the Bangor project be eliminated — pointing out the Navy had identified facility “deficiencies” that needed to be fixed.
“It is difficult for this court to imagine much, if anything, that could be more important to the state of Washington than that the nuclear-powered submarines carrying nuclear warheads are secure when traveling through its waters. The potentially disastrous results of unsecure nuclear weapons within the state’s boundaries are so obvious that they do not need to be elaborated on here,” Rothstein wrote.
Rothstein found the diversion of military funding was not authorized by the APA because the border wall does not meet the definition of “military construction” and is not “necessary to support the use of the armed forces.”
The APA allows for “military installation” construction, including “a base, camp, post, station, yard center, or other activity under the jurisdiction of the secretary of a military department.”
The government claimed the 11 border wall projects fell under the catchall “any other activity” included in the APA.
Rothstein disagreed, finding that interpretation “unduly broad” and beyond the scope laid out by Congress.
The court found the Trump administration could not circumvent Congress’ decision not to fully fund the border wall project by transferring the land to the Department of Defense so the projects could fall under the “military installation” carve-out allowed by the APA.
“Such an interpretation defies not only the text of the statute, but logic itself,” Rothstein wrote.
The judge also rejected the notion the projects are necessary to support armed forces along the border, pointing out Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol are responsible for securing the border, not the Defense Department.
“Simply put, the southern border is not a militarized zone; it is the responsibility of the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that the border is secure — a law enforcement function explicitly outside the purview of the Department of Defense,” Rothstein wrote.
“It can hardly be denied that the public has a strong interest both in the integrity of this country’s borders and in ensuring that the armed forces are well-supported while deploying the missions. However, doing so cannot be done at the expense of our laws,” she ruled.
An after-hours request for comment was not returned by the Justice Department.