Wisconsin drops lawsuit challenging Trump-era border wall funding

Jul 25, 2023, 7:59 AM | Updated: 9:13 am

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin is dropping out of two multistate lawsuits that challenged former President Donald Trump’s decision to divert billions of dollars to fund a wall across the southern U.S. border.

Lawmakers in Madison granted the state Justice Department permission to exit the lawsuits on Tuesday.

Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, had joined other states in federal lawsuits in 2019 and 2020 challenging the use of $6.7 billion meant for National Guard units, military construction projects and police for wall construction. The move included shifting $8 million that had been intended to build a Wisconsin National Guard firing range.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the states, prompting the federal government to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the cases. President Joe Biden issued an executive order in 2021 halting wall construction using the money in question, rendering the challenges moot. Settlement negotiations ensued, and all the states except Wisconsin chose to drop their claims.

The federal government has since restored the money for the Wisconsin firing range, according to the Legislature’s attorneys and the state Justice Department.

Justice Department officials asked the Legislature’s Republican-controlled finance committee to allow them to drop their challenge. The committee voted unanimously without any debate to grant permission during a meeting Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam in Oakland, California, dismissed the other states from the lawsuits on July 17.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice made its formal request to exit the lawsuits on July 18, triggering Tuesday’s meeting.

The department needed permission from legislators to get out of the case under a 2018 law that requires the agency to seek permission from the finance committee before settling lawsuits. Wisconsin Republicans passed the 2018 law to give themselves more oversight of Kaul’s activities after he defeated then-Attorney General Brad Schimel, a Republican.

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Wisconsin drops lawsuit challenging Trump-era border wall funding