Trump Might Divert Money to Wall from Other Emergency Projects

Mexico–United States barrier at the border of Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, USA. The crosses represent migrants who died in the crossing attempt. Some identified, some not. Surveillance tower in the background.
© Tomas Castelazo, / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Michael Mulvaney, President Trump’s acting chief of staff, and other top White House officials are devising a plan to garner enough money to build Trump’s wall along the Mexican border. The plan will not need the administration to invoke a declaration of a national emergency.

The plan involves the redirection of surplus federal dollars using an executive order. The funds can be moved from a variety of budgetary accounts without the need for the congress to sign off. Trump will no longer need to persuade Democrats to give him the $5.7 billion he is demanding and will also alleviate the need to declare a state of national emergency.

Budget officials are considering moving funds from two Army Corps of Engineers’ flood control projects in California, plus disaster relief monies earmarked for Puerto Rico and California. Funds might also be diverted from the Department of Defense which was originally intended for, but not yet used for various construction projects like family housing or military base infrastructure.

“There are certain sums of money that are available to the president, to any president,” Mulvaney said on last Sunday’s “Meet the Press.” “So you comb through the law at the president’s request … And there’s pots of money where presidents, all presidents, have access to without a national emergency.”

The solution is not without its own problems. Re-designating money via executive order may be permitted technically, but it will certainly be challenged in court. Several powerful members of Congress will argue that the president is coming a bit too close to stepping on the toes of the legislature’s constitutional powers to appropriate funds. Some Trump officials think this route to the wall might even be more susceptible to a court challenge than calling a national emergency. The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee stated that siphoning money away from military construction would harm the potential readiness of the armed forces.

“My guess is the president ends up using executive authority to try to reprogram funds,” said one Republican with a strong connection to the administration. He emphasized that no one knows what the president is going to do in the next few days. “Then, in the coming months through some form of military funds, they start building parts of the physical barrier. He can start claiming that, despite Democrats’ intransigence, he has done something on the wall.”

Gail Nussbaum

Gail Nussbaum has been involved in politics and diplomacy for over 15 years. Her interest in foreign relations, economics and budget policy has led her to her position as fiscal policy writer at Left Justified. Gail can be contacted at gailnussbaum(at)

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