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Wisconsin officials seek legislators’ permission to drop lawsuit challenging border wall funding

By: Associated Press//July 24, 2023//

The Wisconsin state Capitol building. (File photo by Ethan Duran)

Wisconsin officials seek legislators’ permission to drop lawsuit challenging border wall funding

By: Associated Press//July 24, 2023//

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Department of Justice plans to ask legislators Tuesday for permission to bow out of a multistate lawsuit challenging former President Donald Trump’s decision to divert billions of dollars from National Guard units to his border wall.

Republicans passed statutes before then-Gov. Scott Walker left office in 2018 designed to weaken incoming Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul’s powers. The statutes require Kaul to seek permission from the Legislature’s GOP-controlled finance committee to settle lawsuits.

According to court documents and a memo the state Justice Department prepared for the finance committee, Wisconsin joined a number of states in federal lawsuits filed in 2019 and 2020 challenging Trump’s decision to divert up to $6.7 billion meant for National Guard units, military construction projects and police to border wall construction. The move called for shifting $8 million to build a Wisconsin National Guard gun range to the wall.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the states, prompting the federal government to petition the U.S. Supreme Court for review.

President Joe Biden issued an executive order after he took office in 2021 halting wall construction using the money in question; the Supreme Court vacated the appellate ruling and sent the case back to federal district court for further proceedings in light of the order.

Settlement negotiations ensued with a number states deciding to drop out of the proceedings. Wisconsin’s claims are still pending, however.

The federal government has since restored the money for the Wisconsin National Guard gun range, according to a memo written to the finance committee by Lara Sutherlin and Winn Collins, administrator and deputy administrator, respectively, of the state Justice Department’s Division of Legal Services. In light of that, there’s no reason to continue court proceedings, they wrote.

The finance committee’s co-chairs, Rep. Mark Born and Sen. Howard Marklein, didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

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