By ANDREW TAYLOR
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has quietly transferred more than $200 million from the Pentagon’s anti-drug efforts toward his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, drawing protests from Democrats who say he is again abusing his powers.
The shift has taken $129 million from anti-drug efforts in Afghanistan — the source of perhaps 90 percent of the world’s heroin — along with $90 million that was freed up by the adoption of a stopgap funding bill, top Democrats said in a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.
The Defense Department “was faced with a simple choice: either additional funds be used for their intended purpose, to accelerate our military’s efforts to combat heroin production in Afghanistan; or divert these funds to pay for cost increases of a border wall project that does not have the support of the American people,” the Democrats wrote.
Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Chuck Schumer of New York and Patrick Leahy of Vermont took the lead, noting that the heroin trade is a big funding source for the Taliban and urging the Pentagon to “redouble its efforts to starve the Taliban of a vital funding source and reduce the scourge of heroin abuse in this country and abroad.”
Trump has shifted more than $6 billion from Pentagon accounts to pay for the construction of border fencing. That’s considerably more than lawmakers have provided through the use of annual appropriations bills.
Wall funding has been a big source of conflict between Capitol Hill Democrats and Trump as they negotiate budget bills each year.
Trump, for instance, was forced in talks this winter to settle for just $1.4 billion worth of wall funding. Shortly afterward, he issued a declaration of a national emergency, a step that allowed him to shift almost three times as much money from military construction accounts to wall building.
A fight over the wall is tying up attempts to begin serious negotiations on wrapping up $1.4 trillion worth of agency appropriations by Thanksgiving.
Separately, the Senate is expected to vote on Thursday to sustain Trump’s veto two days before of legislation meant to reject his emergency declaration.