Wednesday, August 28, 2019

How the Trump administration plans to erect a border wall in 2020

As of mid-2019, the Trump administration has only managed to replace 60 miles of existing border fencing. Trump is suddenly demanding to build 500 miles of new fencing between now and the November 2020 election.

On August 27, 2019, Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey wrote for the Washington Post:

"President Trump is so eager to complete hundreds of miles of border fence ahead of the 2020 presidential election that he has directed aides to fast-track billions of dollars’ worth of construction contracts, aggressively seize private land and disregard environmental rules, according to current and former officials involved with the project.

He also has told worried subordinates that he will pardon them of any potential wrongdoing should they have to break laws to get the barriers built quickly, those officials said."

U.S. Customs and Border Protection gave these construction orders to Army Corps engineers on a conference call in August. The story continued:

"Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper is expected to approve a White House request to divert $3.6 billion in Pentagon funds to the barrier project in coming weeks, money that Trump sought after lawmakers refused to allocate $5 billion. The funds will be pulled from Defense Department projects in 26 states, according to administration officials who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the matter."

And:

"The companies building the fencing and access roads have been taking heavy earth-moving equipment into environmentally sensitive border areas adjacent to U.S. national parks and wildlife preserves, but the administration has waived procedural safeguards and impact studies, citing national security concerns.

* * *

CBP has suggested no longer writing risk-assessment memos “related to the fact that we don’t have real estate rights and how this will impact construction,” the official said."

Furthermore, Trump insists that the fence be painted black (so that it is "hot to the touch, more slippery and therefore tougher to climb"), and "administration officials have stopped trying to talk him out of the demands," even though internal cost analysis says that it will be approximately $100 million to paint or coat 175 miles of fence — a hit to the construction budget that must reduce the total length of fence by about five miles. His other design demand is the removal of existing "the smooth metal plates that are used to thwart climbers" who reach the top of the fence because, even though these are functional, he finds them ugly; he wants the top part of the fence to be shaved to spikes instead. This, too, "is likely to reduce the overall length of the barrier by two to three miles, according to the administration’s cost assessments."

MTrump has also asked the Army Corps to award a contract to Fisher Industries, whose CEO has donated to Sen. Kevin Cramer, a Republican representing North Dakota.

That last part, Greg Sargent wrote in an opinion for the Washington Post the next day, reveals that Trump is "trying to hook up a politically connected crony while also perverting the governing process to stick to a political timetable — all to give his crowds something to chant about at his reelection rallies." Even Sen. Cramer, as Sargent pointed out, admits that Trump wants to award the contract to Fisher because the CEO has appeared on Fox News defending Trump's vision of the border wall.

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