President Donald Trump is preparing to divert an additional $7.2 billion in Pentagon funding for border wall construction this year, five times what Congress authorized him to spend on the project in the 2020 budget, the Washington Post reports. The Pentagon funds would be taken for the second year in a row from military construction projects and counternarcotics funding. The funding would give the government enough money to complete about 885 miles of new fencing by spring 2022, far more than the 509 miles the administration had slated. Trump took $2.5 billion from military counterdrug programs for border barrier construction in 2019. This year his administration is planning to take significantly more — $3.5 billion. Officials are planning to take $3.7 billion in military construction funding, slightly more than the $3.6 billion diverted in 2019.
The move would bring the total amount of federal funds allocated to border fencing to $18.4 billion under Trump, who made the border barrier a priority during his campaign for the presidency in 2016. He also pledged to make Mexico pay for the barrier, delighting crowds at his rallies. The administration has completed 101 miles of new barriers so far, far under the 450 miles the president has promised to erect by the end of the year. Construction on land the federal government owns has been continuing even as legal challenges have aimed to disrupt it. A federal judge in El Paso ruled last month that the White House broke the law when it commandeered funds for the border wall that had been authorized for another purpose. The court froze $3.6 billion the administration budgeted for new barriers. Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit lifted the injunction, saying work could proceed while legal challenges are pending. The president and his administration viewed that ruling as additional encouragement to take the money again this year.