President Donald Trump’s transfer of $2.5 billion in military funds to pay for border wall construction was an illegal overreach of executive authority, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled, the Washington Post reports. The 2-to-1 decision was a setback to the president’s increasing reliance on the Pentagon to finance hundreds of miles of new barrier along the Mexico border. The Supreme Court ruled in Trump’s favor in a similar case last year and Friday’s decision affects only a portion of the funds the White House has budgeted for one of the largest federal infrastructure projects in U.S. history. The president, who ran in 2016 promising that Mexico would pay for the wall, has obtained more than $15 billion in U.S. funds for his signature project, including $5 billion provided by Congress through conventional appropriations.
The appeals court said the White House “lacked independent constitutional authority to authorize the transfer of funds” from the military. The Trump administration is expected to appeal Friday’s ruling to the Supreme Court, which last year sided with the White House and lifted a 9th Circuit injunction freezing transfers of funds from military accounts. The Sierra Club and a collection of border activists sued the administration again last year when Defense Secretary Mark Esper tapped new funding streams for a fresh $2.5 billion.