Judge leans toward asserting right to rule on border wall

Published: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 2:10 AM
Updated: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 2:09 AM


            FILE - This Oct. 26, 2017 file photo shows prototypes of border walls in San Diego. Federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel was berated by Donald Trump for his handling of lawsuits alleging fraud at now-defunct Trump University. Curiel will hear arguments Friday, Feb. 9, 2018, in a lawsuit that could block construction of a border wall with Mexico, or at least cause major delays. (AP Photo/Elliott Spagat, File)
FILE - This Oct. 26, 2017 file photo shows prototypes of border walls in San Diego. Federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel was berated by Donald Trump for his handling of lawsuits alleging fraud at now-defunct Trump University. Curiel will hear arguments Friday, Feb. 9, 2018, in a lawsuit that could block construction of a border wall with Mexico, or at least cause major delays. (AP Photo/Elliott Spagat, File)

A judge who was berated by Donald Trump during the presidential campaign said Friday he was inclined to conclude he can decide a lawsuit that challenges the president's proposed border wall with Mexico but gave no indication how he'll rule.

U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel said during 2½ hours of arguments that he was leaning toward deciding he has jurisdiction in a lawsuit that alleges the Trump administration overreached in waiving dozens of laws that require environmental and other reviews. The administration argues he doesn't have jurisdiction.

Curiel asked the administration and wall opponents for additional briefings by the end of Tuesday. He said he planned to decide within days after that whether to dismiss the lawsuit by the state of California and environmental advocates or let it proceed, but cautioned that "there's a lot of work here."

At the start of his first hearing on the case, Curiel acknowledged "keen interest" and told everyone in his wood-paneled courtroom to behave respectfully. Then both sides delved into detailed discussion on a 2005 law that gave the Homeland Security secretary broad authority to waive environmental reviews to build border barriers.

Trump repeatedly attacked Curiel as the judge presided over 2016 lawsuits alleging fraud at the now-closed Trump University neared trial, suggesting that the Indiana-born judge's Mexican heritage exposed a bias because of Trump's stands on immigration and border security. Trump settled the case for $25 million shortly after winning the election, without admitting wrongdoing.

Curiel, who was forced out of his home and needed around-the-clock protection when he prosecuted Mexican drug kingpins in the 1990s, was unfazed by Trump's criticism during the campaign, said Gregory Vega, a former U.S. attorney in San Diego and longtime friend.

"He's had a credible threat made on his life. I don't think when he was called names, I don't think that really bothered him," said Vega.

The Center for Biological Diversity was first to sue over the wall. Three other groups — Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and the Animal Legal Defense Fund — later filed a lawsuit. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, then filed another lawsuit and Curiel consolidated all three cases into one.

The 2005 law granted powers to waive the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act and other laws that require time-consuming reviews and are subject to prolonged legal challenges.

The Trump administration has issued three waivers since August, two to build barriers in parts of California and one in part of New Mexico. President George W. Bush's administration issued the previous five waivers, clearing the way for the government to extend barriers to its current 654 miles (1,046 kilometers) of the 2,054-mile (3,286-kilometer) border with Mexico.

Legal challenges to border barriers have failed over the years amid national security concerns. The Congressional Research Service said in a report last year for members of Congress that it saw no legal impediments to construction if deemed appropriate for controlling the border.

On Friday, Michael Cayaban, California deputy attorney general, characterized the administration's position as "waiving any law, anywhere along the border without limitation" and called it "a case of extreme overreach by the executive branch."

The judge showed little interest in California's argument that the 2005 law limits waivers to areas with high numbers of illegal crossings and that California doesn't qualify. Curiel said such discussions were "going into the weeds" and could lead to litigation that Congress sought to avoid in 2005.

Curiel questioned both sides extensively on requirement for the Homeland Security secretary to consult federal agencies, state and local governments, Indian tribes, and property owners "to minimize the impact on the environment, culture, commerce, and quality of life." He asked both sides for additional briefings on the topic.

Galen Thorp, an attorney for the administration, said consultations are made to limit impacts but that allowing them to delay construction could lead to protracted litigation that Congress didn't want.

Trump has insisted on $25 billion for border security measures as part of an immigration deal that would include a path to citizenship for 1.8 million people. A proposal by Customs and Border Protection calls for spending $18 billion over 10 years to extend barriers to nearly half the 2,054-mile (3,286-kilometer) border.

One of the administration's environmental waivers is for San Diego, where private contractors recently built eight imposing prototypes to guide designs for future construction. Another is in the town of Calexico, where construction is scheduled to begin Feb. 15.

Trending - Most Read Stories

Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates pleads guilty in Mueller investigation

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 2:39 PM
Updated: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 2:53 PM

What You Need To Know: Rick Gates

Rick Gates, a former aide in President Donald Trump's campaign, pleaded guilty to making false statements and conspiring against the United States on Friday, making him the fifth person to enter a guilty plea in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

READ MORE: Paul Manafort, Rick Gates face new charges: report | Mueller investigation: Lawyer pleads guilty to lying to investigators in Russia probeWho is Rick Gates and why was he indicted by Robert Mueller?Who is Paul Manafort, the man indicted in Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation?What are Paul Manafort and Rick Gates charged with?MORE

Trending - Most Read Stories

Mueller investigation: Lawyer pleads guilty to lying to investigators in Russia probe

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 3:26 PM
Updated: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 3:26 PM

Robert Mueller - Fast Facts

An attorney pleaded guilty Tuesday to lying to the FBI in the agency's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to President Donald Trump's campaign.

The charges against lawyer Alex Van Der Zwaan are the latest in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

READ MORE: Who is Rick Gates and why was he indicted by Robert Mueller?Who is Paul Manafort, the man indicted in Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation?What are Paul Manafort and Rick Gates charged with?MORE

Special Counsel Robert Mueller Files First Charges

Trending - Most Read Stories

House Oversight Committee launches probe into Rob Porter's employment

Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 @ 2:40 PM

Who is Rob Porter?

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating the White House’s employment of staff secretary Rob Porter in the wake of allegations that he abused his two ex-wives, committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, said Wednesday.

>> Read more trending news

Porter submitted his resignation Feb. 2.

Gowdy told CNN that the committee launched a probe Tuesday night into Porter’s employment and when White House officials knew about the domestic violence allegations levied against him.

Porter has denied any wrongdoing.

"We are directing inquiries to people that we think have access to information we don't have. You can call it official. You can call it unofficial,” Gowdy told CNN. “I'm going to direct questions to the FBI that I expect them to answer.”

Porter resigned Feb. 2 after his ex-wives went public with allegations of domestic abuse and said they spoke with federal authorities about the claims, prompting critics to question why he had remained employed in the Trump administration. The allegations held up a background check needed to grant Porter a security clearance for work in the White House. Officials said he was working on an interim security clearance.

The process to get Porter his clearance was ongoing at the time of his resignation.

“How do you have any job if you have credible allegations of domestic abuse?” Gowdy asked on CNN. “I am biased toward the victim.”

>> Related: White House ‘could have done better’ handling Rob Porter allegations, spokesman says

Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, and his second, Jennifer Willoughby, told the FBI about the alleged domestic violence in January 2017, after they were contacted while Porter was applying for his security clearance, according to The Washington Post.

White House officials defended Porter in the immediate aftermath of the allegations, and President Donald Trump has faced criticism for what critics called his lack of care for the victims and his focus on the fact that Porter has denied the claims.

“I was surprised by (the allegations), but we certainly wish him well, and it’s a tough time for him,” Trump told reporters in Washington on Friday. “He did a very good job when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career. … It was very said when we heard about it, and certainly he’s also very sad now. He also, as you probably know, says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that.”

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with White House Secretary Rob Porter (C) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) (R) as they return to the White House December 4, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)(Pool/Getty Images)

Holderness told The Daily Mail that Porter was verbally abusive throughout their relationship, which started in 2000, but that things escalated after they were wed in June 2003. She said Porter kicked her during their honeymoon and during a 2005 vacation in Italy, punched her in the face.

Willoughby, who married Porter in November 2009 and separated from him in early 2010, told The Daily Mail that Porter was verbally abusive.

Willoughby obtained a protective order against Porter in June 2010 after she said he violated their separation agreement and refused to leave her apartment, according to court records obtained by The Daily Mail. In the complaint, Willoughby said Porter punched in a glass door while she was locked inside the apartment, but left after he heard she was on the phone with police.

She told the Mail that in December 2010, he dragged her out of a shower while she was naked in order to yell at her.

The couple was divorced in 2013.

Related

Trending - Most Read Stories

Veteran resident dies, receives patriotic farewell from nursing home

Published: Saturday, February 10, 2018 @ 12:20 PM

File image of the American flag.
Christopher Bruno, Freeimages
File image of the American flag.(Christopher Bruno, Freeimages)

A veterans nursing home in South Carolina honored a resident who died this week with a patriotic farewell that has gone viral.

>> Read more trending news 

In a Facebook post, Laura Dorn thanked the Richard M. Campbell Veterans Nursing Home in Anderson for taking such good care of her father, Doug Timmons, who had Alzheimer's disease and was a resident of the facility for the last three years. Dorn wrote that her father died early Thursday morning and the staff took the time to honor him for his service as his body was removed from the facility. In a video that Dorn posted, Timmons' body, draped with an American flag, is wheeled out as staff line up and a musical tribute plays.

In a Facebook review of the nursing home, Dorn thanked the "caring, accommodating and selfless" staff who she said treated her father like family. Dorn wrote, "They treated my Dad with dignity and respect from the first moment there until he drew his last breath, then sent him off with a hero's procession."

The video has received more than 3 million views.

Trending - Most Read Stories