Top Republican slams Trump's plan to use Pentagon funds for border wall as unconstitutional

CNN's Barbra Starr breaks down key details on how President Donald Trump plans to divert $3.83 billion in Pentagon funding in order to finance border wall construction.

Posted: Feb 15, 2020 12:10 PM
Updated: Feb 15, 2020 12:10 PM

The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee issued a sharp rebuke of President Donald Trump Thursday, slamming the administration's plan to divert $3.83 billion in Pentagon funding to border wall construction as unconstitutional and pledging to take action after lawmakers were notified of the move by the Department of Defense.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican who is the ranking member of the House committee and has announced he will not run for reelection this year, did not mention Trump by name but voiced strong opposition to the diverting of money from various Pentagon accounts for border wall construction, asserting the move is "contrary to Congress's constitutional authority."

"The re-programming announced today is contrary to Congress's constitutional authority, and I believe that it requires Congress to take action. I will be working with my colleagues to determine the appropriate steps to take," he said in a statement responding to the Defense Department's announcement.

"Congress has the constitutional responsibility to determine how defense dollars are spent. We take the Pentagon's recommendations seriously during our deliberations, but the final decisions are contained in the bills passed by Congress and signed into law," Thornberry added.

The Pentagon defended the decision Thursday, insisting it is consistent with the directive issued by the President.

"The Department of Defense is committed to supporting the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to secure the southern border by constructing fences and roads and installing lighting to block drug smuggling corridors," DoD spokesperson LTC Chris Mitchell said in a statement.

"Consistent with the President's April 4, 2018, direction to the Secretary of Defense, DoD used its statutory authority to provide support that aids in blocking drug-smuggling corridors across international boundaries of the United States," Mitchell added.

But the Defense Department's announcement has prompted bipartisan criticism, with Democrats accusing Trump of stealing money from the military he has repeatedly taken credit for rebuilding in order to fulfill a campaign promise.

"Today's reprogramming request confirms once again that the President is obsessed with fulfilling a campaign promise at the expense of our national security. This Administration has already stolen billions from the Department of Defense in order to begin building the President's vanity wall and today they are doubling down on bad policy," House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington, said in a statement.

"The President loves to take credit for 'rebuilding' the military, but today's reprogramming decision does the exact opposite -- it will prevent the acquisition of critical ships, vehicles, and aircraft," he added.

Although the White House has asked for less money for the wall in their formal budget request to Congress, the administration is increasingly relying on Pentagon funds to meet its goal of constructing additional barriers on the border.

The Trump administration has argued that it does not need congressional approval to redirect military funds to the border wall.

And Pentagon officials reiterated that claim Thursday after formally announcing Defense Secretary Mark Esper's decision to accept the Department of Homeland Security's request for assistance "in blocking drug smuggling corridors on federally controlled land along the southwest border of the United States."

"The Department has the authority to reprogram funding within its budget. There is a general transfer authority of up to $4 billion and there is a special transfer authority up to $2 billion. It has to be a higher priority and the secretary has determined this is a higher priority," Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Integration, Robert Salesses, told reporters.

In January, DHS formally requested assistance from the Defense Department, asking for $5.5 billion to help build 271 miles of the border wall, Salesses added. "What the Department has determined, the Secretary has determined is that we will build 177 miles ... So this did not meet the totality of their request," he said.

The announcement comes as Trump is also extending his national emergency on the US-Mexico border for another year, according to a notice submitted to the Federal Register on Thursday.

Trump declared a national emergency nearly a year ago in order to secure funding to build his signature wall.

The move paved the way for Trump to unlock billions of dollars in federal funds to construct additional barriers on the southern border, bypassing Congress after lawmakers refused to meet his multi-billion-dollar fund request.

This is the first time the White House has renewed the emergency, which it plans to extend "beyond" February.

The extension allows the administration to continue dipping into Pentagon funds, which the administration is continuing to rely upon to complete hundreds of miles of wall.

As of February 7, the administration has completed construction of approximately 119 miles -- the majority of which has been replacing old barrier with new, enhanced wall systems, according to US Customs and Border Protection. Trump said at his State of the Union address last week that he intends to complete "over 500 miles" by early 2021.

This story has been updated to add that Thornberry does not intend to run for reelection.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312608

Reported Deaths: 7221
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21429257
Hinds20256414
Harrison17776308
Rankin13539278
Jackson13395246
Madison10051217
Lee9956173
Jones8364163
Forrest7633152
Lauderdale7215240
Lowndes6359144
Lamar620286
Lafayette6162118
Washington5320133
Bolivar4796132
Oktibbeha460398
Panola4545104
Pearl River4495145
Marshall4387103
Warren4368120
Pontotoc419372
Monroe4089133
Union408776
Neshoba4028176
Lincoln3939110
Hancock376686
Leflore3484125
Sunflower335290
Tate331684
Pike3290105
Scott314873
Alcorn310768
Yazoo310269
Itawamba299377
Copiah295865
Coahoma293979
Simpson293788
Tippah287268
Prentiss278560
Marion268680
Leake264973
Wayne262241
Grenada259985
Adams259882
Covington256281
Newton246961
George246748
Winston226981
Tishomingo225067
Jasper220748
Attala214273
Chickasaw207057
Holmes188672
Clay184654
Stone181433
Clarke178179
Tallahatchie177840
Calhoun169532
Yalobusha162936
Smith162034
Walthall133745
Greene130233
Lawrence128223
Noxubee126834
Montgomery126742
Perry126038
Amite123442
Carroll121628
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis106932
Tunica104626
Claiborne102130
Benton99025
Humphreys96133
Kemper95628
Franklin83323
Quitman79616
Choctaw75818
Wilkinson66830
Jefferson65428
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 528784

Reported Deaths: 10913
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson762251516
Mobile40864804
Madison34569501
Tuscaloosa25646451
Montgomery24264585
Shelby23355246
Baldwin20993306
Lee15800168
Calhoun14457312
Morgan14250279
Etowah13796352
Marshall12166222
Houston10506280
Elmore10017205
Limestone9935150
Cullman9617193
St. Clair9584237
Lauderdale9397238
DeKalb8813185
Talladega8183175
Walker7205279
Autauga6910107
Jackson6793110
Blount6621135
Colbert6282134
Coffee5491115
Dale4810111
Russell437938
Chilton4244111
Franklin423882
Covington4105117
Tallapoosa4004150
Escambia392675
Chambers3545123
Dallas3536150
Clarke350360
Marion3092100
Pike309177
Lawrence299698
Winston273572
Bibb259763
Marengo248564
Geneva247075
Pickens233559
Barbour230256
Hale221776
Butler215469
Fayette211962
Henry188544
Cherokee183845
Randolph179241
Monroe176240
Washington166839
Macon158649
Clay153356
Crenshaw151657
Cleburne148341
Lamar141234
Lowndes138453
Wilcox126528
Bullock122941
Conecuh110028
Perry107526
Coosa106828
Sumter104132
Greene92234
Choctaw60324
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