US Supreme Court says Trump can spend military funds on wall

A local takes a picture at workers building a border fence in a private property located in the limits of the US States of Texas and New Mexico taken from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico. (AFP/Henrika Martinez)
Updated 27 July 2019

US Supreme Court says Trump can spend military funds on wall

  • Trump declared a national emergency earlier this year in a bid to bypass Congress and obtain funding for his signature project
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the top congressional Democrats, denounced the ruling

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court on Friday ruled in favor of President Donald Trump, allowing him to proceed with plans to divert billions of dollars in Pentagon funds toward construction of his border wall with Mexico.
“Wow! Big VICTORY on the Wall,” Trump tweeted in reaction to the ruling, which boosts his ability to fulfill a major campaign promise to construct the massive barrier. “Big WIN for Border Security and the Rule of Law!“
Trump declared a national emergency earlier this year in a bid to bypass Congress and obtain funding for his signature project, after the standoff led to the longest government shutdown in US history.
But about 20 US states along with rights and environmental groups and border communities are backing lawsuits that claim the emergency declaration violates the constitution.
A federal judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had issued a temporary injunction against using Defense Department funds for wall construction.
On Friday, the Supreme Court overturned the lower court decision with a 5-4 ruling, writing that the government had “made a sufficient showing at this stage” that the groups did not have the standing to challenge the allocation of funds, freeing up the money for the president’s use while litigation proceeds.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the top congressional Democrats, denounced the ruling.
Pelosi insinuated that the president had exercised executive overreach in bypassing Congress to get the funding, writing on Twitter that “our Founders designed a democracy governed by the people — not a monarchy.”
Schumer, meanwhile, called the matter “deeply regrettable” and “nonsensical,” adding that it “flies in the face of the will of Congress and the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse.”
Trump had originally requested $5.7 billion for his border wall, but after a tug-of-war that included a record 35-day federal government shutdown, he reluctantly signed a spending bill that included appropriations of just $1.4 billion for border barriers, and not specifically a wall.
Then, citing an “invasion” of drugs and criminals, he declared a national emergency at the border, allowing him to repurpose billions of dollars in other government funding.
The $2.5 billion in Defense Department funds at play in the Supreme Court ruling were part of that repurposed money.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) immediately vowed to seek an expedited decision from the Ninth Circuit “to halt the irreversible and imminent damage from Trump’s border wall.”
“Border communities, the environment, and our Constitution’s separation of powers will be permanently harmed should Trump get away with pillaging military funds for a xenophobic border wall Congress denied,” said Dror Ladin, attorney with the ACLU’s national security project.
Trump made the construction of a wall to stem illegal immigration from Latin America central to his successful 2016 campaign for the presidency.
The number of border-crossers detained by the US Border Patrol surged to a 13-year high of more than 144,000 in May before easing to 104,000 in June — still up 142 percent from a year earlier.
The Supreme Court victory was the second piece of good news for Trump, who earlier in the afternoon announced that a “landmark” asylum agreement had been reached with Guatemala, which Trump claimed would classify the Central American nation as a “safe third country,” meaning that US-bound migrants who enter the country would be required to seek asylum there instead.
However the US Department of Homeland Security said the term did not appear in the agreed text.


US lawsuit against Qatari emir’s brother to be re-filed in Massachusetts court

Updated 28 January 2020

US lawsuit against Qatari emir’s brother to be re-filed in Massachusetts court

  • The move was intended to force Sheikh Khaled, who had been avoiding being served, to acknowledge and accept legal service
  • Two former contractors alleged they were denied wages and threatened by Sheikh Khaled after they refused his orders to kill two people

The attorney for two former contractors suing Sheikh Khaled Al-Thani, the brother of the Emir of Qatar, has asked a Florida Federal Court judge to dismiss their lawsuit so they can re-file the claims before a different Federal court in Massachusetts.

The former contractors alleged they were denied wages and threatened by Sheikh Khaled after they refused his orders to kill two people. The original lawsuit had Sheikh Khaled as the principle defendant but on Nov. 5, 2019 it was expanded to include race car company Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC, which Sheikh Khaled owns.

The move was intended to force Sheikh Khaled, who had been avoiding being served, to acknowledge and accept legal service.

Failing to serve a defendant or a defendant’s business assets can result in the lawsuit being thrown out by a judge in the American judicial system.

The expansion of the lawsuit worked. After ignoring the lawsuit for more than seven months, lawyers for both Sheikh Khaled and Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC, filed responses. They asked the Federal Court on Jan. 2 this year to dismiss the Pittard/Allende lawsuit, arguing Florida lacked Federal jurisdiction over the case.

According to Bloomberg Markets, Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC, is based in Duxbury, Massachusetts, although it has an office in Florida.

“After the Pittard case complaint was amended, several individuals bravely stepped forward to share their stories and experiences with the defendants in the Pittard case,” said Rebecca Castaneda, the attorney for security professional Matthew Pittard and paramedic Matthew Allende, who are seeking $33 million in damages.

“In light of the information that they have provided, and the new plaintiffs’ claims and causes of actions against the defendants and others, we have requested that the Pittard case be dismissed from the Middle District of Florida.

“The cases of Matthew Pittard and Matthew Allende will be supplemented with additional legal claims and information that has been obtained and re-filed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the District of Massachusetts.”

Sheikh Khaled’s attorney, Alejandro Soto, of the Florida law firm Fridman Fels and Soto, PLLC, argued in their motion to dismiss in January that Sheikh Khaled had no legal presence in Florida and that Florida’s Federal courts had no jurisdiction over his actions.

“While the amended complaint invokes Florida law, it otherwise fails to allege any facts supporting Sheikh Khaled’s contacts with the state,” Soto said in his Jan. 2 dismissal demand.

“By all accounts — including plaintiffs’— Sheikh Khaled is a citizen of the state of Qatar whose domicile and primary residence — both during the time period alleged in the amended complaint and now — have always been in Qatar.

“Moreover, the amended complaint does not allege a single fact suggesting that any of the alleged conduct giving rise to this case occurred in or arose from Sheikh Khaled’s contacts with Florida. Indeed, the only alleged connection that Florida has with this case is plaintiff Matthew Pittard’s alleged residence in it.”

Attorneys for Al-Anabi Racing LLC, Armando Rosquete and Javier A. Reyes of the Bell Rosquete Reyes Esteban, PLLC law firm, argued that Sheikh Khaled was not employed by Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC and claimed Florida lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.

“Contrary to this settled jurisdictional jurisprudence, plaintiffs failed to plead any facts to establish personal jurisdiction or even provide a factual framework under which this court could analyse personal jurisdiction,” Reyes and Rosquete said in their Jan. 2 dismissal demand.

“Indeed, other than an unsupported conclusory allegation in a single paragraph, plaintiffs include no jurisdictional facts that connect Al-Anabi to Florida. Plaintiffs do not allege that they were injured in Florida, nor do they allege any facts regarding Al-Anabi’s contacts with the state.

“The amended complaint is devoid of facts that could — even when analysed in the light most favorable to plaintiffs — show that the purported injury or other conduct alleged even occurred in Florida,” Reyes and Rosquete added.

Attorneys Reyes, Rosquete and Soto all failed to respond to repeated inquiries for comment on their dismissal filings.

Pittard and Allende alleged in the lawsuit, originally filed on July 23, 2019 before Federal Judge Thomas P. Barber, that Sheikh Khaled ordered them to kill two individuals who posted negative and embarrassing comments about the sheikh on social media.

According to Castaneda, Sheikh Khaled ordered the killing of a Los Angeles-based drug dealer who was trying to blackmail the sheikh with claims he had compromising photos and videos of the sheikh.

“We don’t know the veracity of the drug dealer’s claims, but the sheikh took them seriously and he wanted Pittard and Allende to kill the blackmailer,” Castaneda said.

In another case, Castaneda said Sheikh Khaled allegedly ordered the two security contractors to murder a Moroccan woman who was a friend of the sheikh’s wife. Castaneda said Sheikh Khaled feared the woman was feeding embarrassing information about him to a Saudi national at a time when his brother, Emir Al-Thani, and Qatar were in an international row with Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries.

Pittard and Allende allege they were threatened at gunpoint by an angry Sheikh Khaled when they refused his orders in September 2017 to murder the two individuals he suspected had sullied his social reputation. The lawsuit claims Sheikh Khaled's threats against Pittard and Allende continued to escalate.