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Report: U.S. Agency investigating Biden over halting border wall construction

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President Joe Biden is being investigated by a government agency over whether he broke the law by stopping construction of former President Donald Trump‘s signature border wall, Politico reported Tuesday.

This comes amid the deteriorating situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, which has seen a surge in migrant crossings.

MORE ON THE BORDER: Republican lawmakers invite Committee Democrats to join border trip

The day he was sworn in, Biden halted construction of the wall, despite Congress having approved $1.4 billion for the project as part of a $900 billion coronavirus stimulus package passed in December.

The Government Accountability Office (GOA), according to Politico, confirmed this week that it is launching a review into whether the president broke any laws by freezing the funds, a breach of budget rules regulating Congress’ “power of the purse.”

Biden, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt (R) said, should have been aware of the rule, with the president having previously served as a Delaware senator for over three decades.

“He was in the Congress a long time,” Blunt told Politico. “He knows it’s the Congress’ job to authorize how the money is spent and the president’s job to spend it efficiently.”

MORE ON THE BORDER: ‘Not today’: Kamala Harris laughs when asked if she plans to visit the border

Even if the GAO rules that Biden has illegally frozen border wall funding, Politico noted, he is unlikely to face any formal punishment.

The president’s pause on funding—which his administration described as a “programmatic delay” like Trump’s did—was announced publicly via presidential proclamation. The Biden administration has also pledged to release the money if the pause violated congressional intent, per the news outlet.

The Biden administration said the halt will give them time to figure out where the cash should be spent, with a spokesperson for the the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) claiming it is “a necessary and responsible step for prudent management of federal funds.”

MORE ON THE BORDER: Sara Carter obtains whistleblower email describing ‘extremely unsafe and unhealthy’ conditions at migrant facility

Senate Republicans, led by Sens. Richard Shelby (Ala.) and Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), asked the GAO to look at whether the commander-in-chief exceeded his authority and violated a 1974 law that bars a president from altering funding approved by Congress.

The pause on funding “directly contributed” to that wave of border-crossers, Senate Republicans said in their request last week for the GAO to comment on the matter, per Politico. Over 70 House GOP members followed Tuesday in requesting a GAO opinion, which the agency typically provides whenever a member of Congress asks for one.

Biden is also coming under scrutiny for halting the funding just as Trump faced lawsuits after he redirected $2.5 billion in military construction funds to the building of the border wall amid a fight with Democrats over funding levels.

“The Biden administration has to be really careful about doing stuff like this, because otherwise they’re just going to be doing the exact thing the Trump administration did — just at the other end of the policy spectrum,” Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, a manager at the watchdog group Project on Government Oversight, told Politico.

The obstruction of congressionally approved funds by both White Houses has prompted Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth (Ky.), the chair of the House Budget Committee, to review the GAO’s response and to “reassert and strengthen” Congress’ spending powers, a committee spokesperson told Politico.

The congressman will also reintroduce legislation to “increase transparency around executive spending,” the spokesperson stated—with Politico noting that it is unclear if the Biden administration will back the bill, which would require the OMB to make public its instructions for spending money.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Immigration

DHS Secretary Mayorkas Says We Cannot Remove ‘11 Million Undocumented Individuals’ Unlawfully in U.S.

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Mayorkas
DHS Secretary Mayorkas

Troubling details were unearthed during the questioning of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas by the Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Grassley asked Mayorkas about a DHS memo from September 30 which reads: “The fact an individual is a removable noncitizen will not alone be the basis of an enforcement action against them.”

“Does that reasoning apply to the [1.2] million illegal immigrants who have received due process and been given a final order of removal by an immigration judge?” Grassley asked Mayorkas.

“We cannot remove 1.2 million individuals, nor can we remove more than 11 million undocumented individuals, individuals who are unlawfully present in the United States, who might not have final orders of removal” Mayorkas answered.

Mayorkas also stated that he had issued the due process policy after drawing on “tremendous experience not only as a member of the Department of Homeland Security but as a federal prosecutor.”

Grassley pressed Mayorkas, asking, “should any of them be removed?”

“Of course,” Mayorkas said. “I do believe that individuals who pose a public safety threat, who pose a national security threat, who pose a border security threat, should be removed, and we should be smart and effective in our use of resources, and we should focus on the well-being of our communities and prioritize individuals for removal.”

In his opening statements, Grassley addressed Mayorkas and stated, “When you allow the ACLU and open-borders immigration activists rather than career law enforcement professionals to dictate the terms of your immigration and border policies, then you shouldn’t be surprised when record-shattering numbers of people start showing up at the border to take advantage of that.”

Grassley continued, “When you run DHS like it’s an ‘Abolish ICE’ fan club, you shouldn’t be surprised when you have an illegal immigration crisis on your hands.”

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