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Wisconsin will drop lawsuits over money redirected for Trump’s border wall

Mulitple states sued after Trump tried to redirect federal security dollars to pay for the wall. But the legal dispute became moot after Biden took office.

U.S. Supreme Court
J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Wisconsin will drop a pair of lawsuits that were filed over money that was redirected to pay for then-President Donald Trump’s border wall.

Lawmakers on the state’s Joint Committee on Finance voted Tuesday to give Wisconsin Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul permission to dismiss the cases.

Multiple states, including Wisconsin, brought a federal lawsuit in 2019 after Trump tried to shift more than $6 billion in federal security dollars to finance a wall along the southern border. That included $8 million that had been earmarked for an arms training facility at Truax Field, an Air National Guard base in Madison. States filed another suit in 2020 after Trump tried to reallocate more funds in that fiscal year.

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The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals sided with the states, prompting the Trump administration to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the cases.

But the legal dispute became moot after Democratic President Joe Biden took office and later issued a 2021 executive order halting border wall construction.

Since then, all the plaintiff states except Wisconsin have dropped their claims as part of settlement agreements, and a federal judge in California dismissed them from the case this summer.

In Wisconsin, however, state law requires the attorney general to get legislative approval before settling lawsuits in many instances. Wisconsin’s legislators passed that restriction in 2018 during a lame-duck session that followed former Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s failure to win reelection. It was part of a series of laws from the Republican-led Legislature, which aimed to curb the power of AG-Elect Kaul and Gov.-Elect Tony Evers, both of whom are Democrats.

In 2021, Biden’s White House announced federal funding had been restored for the Truax Field project. That allocation was not part of the lawsuit settlement.

Because that funding has been restored and because Biden has stopped the border wall project, “Wisconsin’s litigation team has concluded that there would be no purpose in continuing with further litigation in this case,” officials with Wisconsin’s Attorney General’s office wrote in a July memo to state lawmakers.

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