While facing off against one of the country’s biggest enemies abroad, the White House just scored another tactical victory on the home front — and proved how crucial the president’s power to shape the judiciary system really is.
President Donald Trump on Thursday was celebrating a decision by a panel of the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to lift a lower court order that blocked billions in military construction funds from being used to build up defenses on the southern border.
For Trump, who made controlling illegal immigration the centerpiece of his presidential campaign and has continued that stance throughout his administration, it was a moment of victory in a long-running legal fight — and he had a judge he appointed himself to thank for it.
Breaking News: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals just reversed a lower court decision & gave us the go ahead to build one of the largest sections of the desperately needed Southern Border Wall, Four Billion Dollars. Entire Wall is under construction or getting ready to start!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 9, 2020
According to USA Today, the 5th Circuit’s decision released Wednesday allows the administration to go ahead with its plans to move $3.6 billion in funding allocated for military projects to Trump’s border wall.
The ruling set aside an injunction issued last month by District Judge David Briones in El Paso, Texas, Politico reported. The Fifth District panel decided the challengers, the city of El Paso and an activist group called the Border Network for Human Rights, lacked legal standing to bring the case.
The dissent was written by Judge Stephen Higginson, an appointee of then-President Barack Obama in 2011.
The ruling itself contained no details on its reasoning, but cited a Supreme Court decision from last year that lifted a similar injunction issued by a federal judge in Oakland, California, according to Politico.
That case, brought by the environmental group the Sierra Club, was decided in a 5-4 ruling, according to Reuters, with two Trump appointees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, siding with the administration.
Coming less than a week after the Trump-ordered drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the court victory gave Trump a win at home and abroad in the space of less than seven days.
The appeals court decision might not be the final word on the matter, of course. Lawyers for the challengers told Politico they haven’t decided their next move.
“We, along with our clients, are considering our options,” attorney Kristy Parker of the watchdog group Protect Democracy told the website.
“We are confident the District Court‘s ruling is correct. The power of the purse belongs to Congress, and we will continue our fight to enforce the separation of powers our Constitution mandates.”
It’s true that the power of the purse belongs to Congress. But the power to rule on matters of law belongs to the federal judiciary.
And for too long, that judiciary has been largely in the hands of liberal judges who’ve interpreted the Constitution as they see fit, rather than what its words say or where the country is politically.
(In the United States, gay marriage is legal today because of one man — former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy — not because of the Constitution.)
Trump’s impact on the judiciary has already outpaced his predecessors, and could well be the longest-lasting legacy of his years in office — whether they’re 4 or 8.
That take on Wednesday’s ruling wasn’t lost on social media commenters either.
Those judge appointments are really working out
— Harry (@Harry49734617) January 9, 2020
Proving once again that it isn’t cream that comes to the top, it is judicial appointments…and rescue might be a better word.
— Charlie Currie (@CharlieCurrie) January 9, 2020
Stacking the courts with sane, constitution-following judges will be Trump’s greatest achievement.
— Nana’s Drunk Again (@B737CA) January 9, 2020
This isn’t an argument for filling the federal court ranks for political toadies — leave that to Democrats like Obama and his appointments of “empathetic” justices like the “wise Latina” Sonia Sotomayor.
In addition to an immigration crackdown, Trump made no secret of wanting to include more conservatives in the court system — his pledge to select Supreme Court justices from a group vetted by the conservative Federalist Society was a key part of his campaign.
Wednesday’s decision, joined by one of Trump’s own appointees at the appellate level, and relying on two of his appointees at the Supreme Court level, shows how important that presidential power really is.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.