Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the federal judge President Donald Trump accused of bias during the 2016 campaign, could decide whether construction on Trump’s vaunted border wall will begin soon.
Curiel will decide whether the administration can lawfully waive environmental laws governing major construction projects. Trump has previously argued that the judge is biased against him, given his Mexican heritage.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued the Trump administration in Sept. 2017 to stop construction of a stretch of wall near San Diego, extending eastward from the Pacific Ocean. Becerra argues the Homeland Security Department cannot waive relevant provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act, which impose numerous constraints on the administration’s plans.
“We must be allowed to do our job, which is to make sure this wall and its construction impacts don’t destroy this environmentally rich area,” said California Coastal Commission Chair Dayna Bochco.
Curiel is scheduled to hear the case Friday.
He previously presided over the civil fraud lawsuit against Trump University, a for-profit real estate training program owned and operated by the Trump Organization. The president settled the case for $25 million during the transition. Curiel found against Trump on several points prior to the settlement. In turn, Trump called on Curiel to recuse himself from the case given his stance on immigration.
“I think it has to do with perhaps the fact that I’m very, very strong on the border,” Trump told Fox News in February 2016. “Now, he is Hispanic, I believe. He is a very hostile judge to me.”
He has elsewhere called Curiel, an Obama appointee, “biased” and “a hater.”
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