Not Only Unpopular, Ineffective, and Offensive, But Another Example of Taxpayers Footing Bill for Trump Failure
As the Washington Post’s Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey reported last night, Trump’s border wall is apparently no longer just a vanity project but also a corruption scheme: “Trump has personally and repeatedly urged the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to award a border wall contract to a North Dakota construction firm whose top executive is a GOP donor and frequent guest on Fox News, according to four administration officials.”
According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication at America’s Voice: “So, the border wall isn’t just unpopular, ineffective, and offensive, it’s yet another prime example of how President Trump is a corrupt grifter. He is looking to channel taxpayer money to a donor, friend, and Fox News frequenter, all the while purporting to be a champion of saving taxpayer dollars. There is always a pay-to-play aspect and a personal profit motive behind Trump’s public actions. That the company in question is reported to be unqualified under existing contracting guidelines and has a history of unsavory business practices, doesn’t surprise me one bit.”
Miroff and Dawsey’s entire piece, “‘He always brings them up’: Trump tries to steer border wall deal to North Dakota firm,” is excerpted below and available online here.
…In phone calls, White House meetings and conversations aboard Air Force One during the past several months, Trump has aggressively pushed Dickinson, N.D.-based Fisher Industries to Department of Homeland Security leaders and Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the commanding general of the Army Corps, according to the administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal discussions. The push for a specific company has alarmed military commanders and DHS officials.
Semonite was summoned to the White House again Thursday, after the president’s aides told Pentagon officials — including Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff — that the president wanted to discuss the border barrier. According to an administration official with knowledge of the Oval Office meeting, Trump immediately brought up Fisher, a company that sued the U.S. government last month after the Army Corps did not accept its bid to install barriers along the southern border, a contract potentially worth billions of dollars.
…Even as Trump pushes for his firm, Fisher already has started building a section of fencing in Sunland Park, N.M. We Build the Wall, a nonprofit that includes prominent conservatives who support the president — its associates and advisory board include former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon, Blackwater USA founder Erik Prince, ex-congressman Tom Tancredo and former Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach — has guided an effort to build portions of the border barrier on private land with private funds.
…Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, has joined in the campaign for Fisher Industries, along with Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), an ardent promoter of the company and the recipient of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Fisher and his family members, according to campaign finance records. Cramer, in an interview Thursday, said the Trump administration has shown a great deal of interest in his constituent’s company.
“He always brings them up,” Cramer said, noting that he spoke with Trump about Fisher twice — once in February and again on Thursday. Each time, Trump said he wanted Fisher to build some of the barrier, Cramer said.
Cramer said Trump likes Fisher because he had seen him on television advocating for his version of the barrier: “He’s been very aggressive on TV,” Cramer said of the CEO.
“You know who else watches Fox News?” Cramer asked.
…Trump’s repeated attempts to influence the Army Corps’ contracting decisions show the degree to which the president is willing to insert himself into what is normally a staid legal and regulatory process designed to protect the U.S. government from accusations of favoritism. They also show how a private company can appeal to the president using well-placed publicity and personal connections to his allies — and the president’s willingness to dive into the minutiae of specific projects.
…Army Corps of Engineers officials evaluated Fisher’s proposal and said that it didn’t meet the requirements of the project — and that the proposal was cheaper because it wasn’t as high-quality, or as sophisticated, in their view…