WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court has allowed President Donald Trump to defy Congress and continue to spend more than $6 billion diverted from military funds to pay for the construction of a border wall in parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and California.
By 5-4 vote, the justices on Friday rebuffed lawyers for the Sierra Club and House Democrats who sued to challenge Trump's diversion of funds as illegal and unconstitutional.
They won rulings before judges in California and Texas, but in a brief order last summer the court allowed Trump to continue spending the disputed funds while the litigation continues.
But over the dissents of the four liberal justices, the court kept that order in place.
Last week, lawyers for the ACLU and the Sierra Club filed an emergency appeal arguing the court's order would permit the border wall projects to be completed before the Supreme Court ever gets a chance to rule on whether the spending was legal. House Democrats filed a brief in support of the appeal.
Keeping the stay in place offers Trump "a complete victory without having prevailed in any court," they told the justices.
The case offers a stark example of how the president can defy the Constitution and its separation of powers with an assistance from the Supreme Court.
Early last year, Trump demanded $5.7 billion for the border wall, but the House of Representatives under Democratic control refused, triggering a partial government shutdown that lasted 35 days. The impasse ended when Trump signed a new spending bill that did not include the border wall funding he sought.
But a day later, he declared a national emergency and ordered the Pentagon to transfer $2.5 billion to pay for border wall projects. The administration said the new barriers extending for up 130 miles were designed to prevent "drug smuggling." Later, Trump ordered the transfer of another $3.6 billion for new border barriers in Texas.
The Constitution says, "No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in Consequence of Appropriations made by law."