A trial court had previously said the money could not be switched from the Pentagon towards construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border, one of the president’s repeated policy promises to supporters. An appeals court had also refused to enter a stay while the matter was considered.
But on Friday, the nation’s highest court entered such a stay, and permitted constriction to continue while litigation over the issue played out.
The court’s decision handed a big victory to the president, which he was quick to embrace.
“Wow! Big VICTORY on the Wall,” he tweeted. “The United States Supreme Court overturns lower court injunction, allows Southern Border Wall to proceed. Big WIN for Border Security and the Rule of Law!”
The 5-4 decision by the court came on ideological lines. Its four most liberal justices dissented the decision.
Earlier this year, having failed to obtain more than $6bn in funding for a wall despite shutting down the government for 35 days – the longest shutdown in US history – the president announced he was declaring an emergency at the country’s border with Mexico.
By doing so, he hoped to obtain the funds without the approval of Congress, a tactic many critics – as well as members of his own party – believed overstepped the constitutional powers of the presidency.
The case in court arose from a challenge to Mr Trump’s action brought by Sierra Club, a leading environmental group, and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, a group advocating for people living in border areas.
The challengers had said the wall would be disruptive to the environment, partly because it could worsen flooding problems and have a negative impact on wildlife.
US district Judge Haywood Gilliam ruled on May 30 in Oakland, California, that the administration’s proposal to build parts of the border wall in California, New Mexico and Arizona with money appropriated for the defence department to use in the fight against illegal drugs, was unlawful. The judge issued an injunction barring use of the Pentagon funds for a border wall.
The Supreme Court said on Friday that it would lift a freeze on the money put in place by the lower court and its actions mean the administration can make use of the funds to begin work on four contracts it has already awarded.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which represented the groups challenging the administration, vowed to fight on.
“This is not over. We will be asking the federal appeals court to expedite the ongoing appeals proceeding to halt the irreversible and imminent damage from Trump’s border wall,” said ACLU lawyerDror Ladin.
“Border communities, the environment, and our Constitution’s separation of powers will be permanently harmed should Trump get away with pillaging military funds for a xenophobic border wall Congress denied.”
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