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Judge sides with Trump

A judge who was taunted by Donald Trump during the presidential campaign sided with the president Tuesday on a challenge to building a border wall with Mexico, removing what could have been a major obstacle to the signature campaign pledge.

U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel rejected arguments by the state of California and advocacy groups that the administration overreached by waiving laws requiring environmental and other reviews before construction can begin. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit said a 2005 a law that gave the Homeland Security secretary broad authority to waive the reviews had expired.

"Big legal win today," Trump tweeted in response to the ruling. He didn't mention his prior remarks about the judge.

Trump berated Curiel during the campaign for his handling of fraud allegations against now-defunct Trump University, suggesting the Indiana-born judge's Mexican heritage reflected a bias.

Curiel mentioned his roots in his 101-page ruling Tuesday when he cited another native of the state, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote in another case that courts should not make policy judgments.

"The court cannot and does not consider whether the underlying decisions to construct border barriers are politically wise or prudent," Curiel wrote.

The lawsuit was the first major legal challenge to the wall under Trump and the latest legal challenge to fail over the years.

The Center for Biological Diversity, which sued along with the state of California and three advocacy groups, said it would appeal.

"They're giving unprecedented, sweeping power to an unelected agency chief to ignore dozens of laws and crash through hundreds of miles of spectacular borderlands," attorney Brian Segee said, referring to the head of Homeland Security. "This is unconstitutional and shouldn't be allowed to stand."

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said, "We will evaluate all of our options and are prepared to do what is necessary to protect our people, our values, and our economy from federal overreach."

The Animal Legal Defence Fund said it may ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. The Sierra Club said the environmental and other reviews are critical to protecting border communities, but the group didn't discuss its next step.

U.S. Justice Department spokesman Devin O'Malley welcomed the decision, saying Congress granted authority to build a wall without delay and that the administration is pleased it can continue "this important work vital to our nation's interests."



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