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Trump administration can waive environmental rules over Mexico border wall

Trump administration can waive environmental rules over Mexico border wall

A federal judge has ruled the Trump administration has the authority to waive environmental rules as it seeks to construct a border wall with Mexico.

Judge Gonzalo Curiel handed the administration a victory on one of Donald Trump’s central campaign promises – a ruling that was all the more striking because Mr Trump had disparaged Mr Curiel’s ability to be unbiased because of the American judge’s Mexican heritage.

California and an array of environmental groups filed legal challenges last year to the administration’s effort to expedite the wall’s construction by circumventing a variety of statutes. In announcing the lawsuit, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra suggested Donald Trump had sought to “ignore the law”.

Mr Curiel’s acknowledged he was ruling on a politically freighted case, writing in his decision that the wall was the “subject of heated political debate…as to the need, efficacy and the source of funding for such barriers”, but said he was not weighing in on whether “underlying decisions to construct the border barriers are politically wise or prudent”.

“It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices,” Mr Curiel wrote, quoting Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

Department of Justice spokesman Devin O’Malley hailed the decision as helping to advance “ important work vital to our nation’s interests.”

“Border security is paramount to stemming the flow of illegal immigration that contributes to rising violent crime and to the drug crisis, and undermines national security,“ Mr O’Malley said in a statement.

Mr Becerra responded to the ruling by saying the California Department of Justice would “evaluate all of our options”.

“We remain unwavering in our belief that the Trump Administration is ignoring laws it doesn’t like in order to resuscitate a campaign talking point of building a wall on our southern border,” Mr Becerra said in a statement.

During the presidential campaign, Mr Trump called Mr Curiel – who was then overseeing class-action lawsuits against Trump University – “very hostile” and repeatedly referred to the Indiana-raised judge’s Hispanic roots

“We are building a wall. He’s a Mexican. We’re building a wall between here and Mexico,” Mr Trump said during a June 2016 interview.

“This judge is giving us unfair rulings. Now, I say. ‘Why?’ Well, I’m building a wall, OK? And it’s a wall between Mexico. Not another country,” Mr Trump added.

Debate over the wall has continued to smoulder in Washington. While the Trump administration requested $18bn (£13bn) for the structure’s first phase earlier this year, Congress has not yet allocated money to construct a border barrier.

The wall’s fate has also become entangled in a broader immigration fight. Mr Trump has sought to extract a deal for more border security funding in exchange for opening a path to citizenship to young immigrants who are in the country illegally. He moved to end a programme that offered them temporary legal status.

The choice in campaign manager shows that Mr Trump’s 2020 campaign will rely heavily on using social media and other digital platforms to spread Mr Trump’s message. That’s a subject that Mr Parscale himself recently bragged about by saying that he thinks the Trump 2016 campaign digital strategy was much more effective than that of their Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

“I bet we were 100x to 200x her. We had [cost per thousand]s that were pennies in some cases,” Mr Parscale wrote in response to Nicholas Thompson, who recently published an investigation into Facebook’s influence on the 2016 election. “This is why @realDonaldTrump was a perfect candidate for FaceBook.”

Mr Parscale’s firm ended up charging Mr Trump’s campaign $94 million for its work on the 2016 election.

The freshly minted Trump campaign manager has also taken one of the biggest liabilities facing the President: The probe by special counsel Robert Mueller into collusion between the 2016 campaign and Russia.

“I would not want a foreign entity to meddle in our election,” Mr Parscale said during an interview with 60 Minutes in which he said he was bothered by fact that Facebook admitted Russians spent at least $100,000 on ads to influence the 2016 campaign. “I’m an American.”

Mr Trump had two campaign managers while running in 2016, showing that working for his initial run proved tumultuous for some of those involved.

The first campaign manager was Corey Lewandowski, who was fired from his post after a reported internal power struggle that occurred after he caught criticism for allegedly grabbing a reporter’s arm against her will. He was replaced months later by Kellyanne Conway, who is currently a top White House official.