When Donald Trump announced he was running for president, he boasted to supporters that he was going to build “a great, great wall on our southern border” and make Mexico pay for it. Shortly thereafter, that became taxpayers will put up the money but Mexico will reimburse us, which changed to Mexico will pay through tariffs, and then Mexico will pay “indirectly through NAFTA,” which preceded the wall will pay for itself, which turned into Congress will fund it and if they don’t I’ll shut down this whole damn government. That, of course, was followed by an attempt to scrape the money together via a national emergency that Congress voted down and which Trump is still trying to make happen. In the meantime, however, the administration has a new plan of sorts: make the French pay.
The White House is targeting a windfall from an international banking scandal to help pay for the border wall, according to an administration official. French bank Societe Generale struck a deal with the U.S government in November to pay $1.3 billion after admitting that it violated U.S. sanctions on Cuba and Iran for years. . . . The administration is hoping to funnel as much as $359 million from that settlement to a special account at the Treasury Department to fund the wall, the official said.
To be fair, this isn’t the worst idea Team Trump has come up with wall funding, setting aside the fact that most Americans don’t the thing and would probably prefer that money be spent elsewhere. Unfortunately, there’s also the minor matter of it potentially being illegal for Trump to spend the cash on his fence:
. . . it’s unclear whether the White House can use the money for the wall. The Treasury account—known as the asset forfeiture fund—is made up of cash, property and other items seized during civil and criminal investigations. Use of the funds is restricted by federal law, and the account itself is a lightning rod for criticism, with both conservatives and liberals calling it an example of government overreach.
“Fundamentally, this is a slush fund of money taken from private citizens that law enforcement officials are allowed to use for their own purposes,” said Robert McNamara, a senior attorney with the libertarian Institute for Justice. “If Congress is supposed to be in charge of appropriations, we shouldn’t be setting up funds that the executive can self-fund based on how many people it shakes down,” McNamara said.
Other ideas that have been thrown around include using disaster money that would otherwise go to areas affected by things like deadly hurricanes and, more recently, using funds intended for military construction, pay, and pensions. Shockingly, neither suggestion went over well, but the latter was seen as particularly egregious. “More than $10 billion of other top priorities that the military and their families have requested over the last several years is on the chopping block to placate the president,” Senators Dick Durbin, Patrick Leahy, and Brian Schatz said in a joint statement this week. “This madness will not stop until more of our Republican colleagues are willing to put the military ahead of party politics.”
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