Trump administration diverts $3.8 billion in military combat funds for border wall

By Camilo Montoya-Galvez

/ CBS News

White House diverts $3.8 billion for border wall

Washington — The Trump administration on Thursday announced it plans to make yet another multi-billion-dollar transfer of Pentagon funds to finance the construction of barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, tapping into money originally allocated for military weapons and hardware.

By diverting $3.8 billion Department of Defense funds, officials hope to erect 177 miles of border barriers and help President Trump fulfill one of his signature campaign promises. Although the administration has already transferred billions of dollars over the past two years toward border wall construction, Thursday's plans are the first that involve the transfer of funds for military combat equipment.

According to a notification to Congress obtained by CBS News, the $3.8 billion in funding will be funneled to help the Department of Homeland Security curtail drug smuggling by constructing barriers, roads and lights along the U.S. southern border. The transfer stemmed from a request by the Department of Homeland Security last month which Secretary of Defense Mark Esper approved.

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The administration has already diverted billions of dollars from various government funds, including money for military construction projects and counter drug initiatives, to fund border barrier construction.

Democrats quickly denounced Thursday's announcement.

"Once again, President Trump's obsession over his border wall and fulfilling a campaign promise comes at the expense of our national security," Mississippi Congressman Bennie G. Thompson said in a statement. "The Pentagon is not a piggy bank to help the President win reelection."

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), one of the administration's top foes in court, said it would sue to try to stop the transfer.

"Not one court has given his unlawful power grab the stamp of approval. We'll be back in court to block these additional, unauthorized transfers," ACLU attorney Dror Ladin said in a statement.

David Martin contributed reporting.

First published on February 13, 2020 / 5:10 PM

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Camilo Montoya-Galvez Camilo Montoya-Galvez

Camilo Montoya-Galvez is the immigration reporter at CBS News. Based in Washington, he covers immigration policy and politics. Twitter: @camiloreports