2019-11-13 23:07:251 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Border wall construction (Image source: Public domain)
Donald Trump needs to get moving on pushing his 2020 reelection message to the public. Currently, his message seems to be just slamming the Democrats — there doesn’t seem to be any real note of what he plans to do if he is elected for another four years.
But one message he definitely needs to work on is that of the border wall. It was much of his campaign plan in 2016 and then encompassed much of his first two years in office. But it’s still not close to being done, even after he utilized an emergency money grab to pay for it after Congress refused.
In lieu of any new campaign message, he at least needs to make good on his original promises, such as the border wall. And if it’s not going to be finished on time, his reelection chances could hinge on whether the public believes that he’s making good on that promise of a border wall.
According to people familiar with the proposal, adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner pushed an idea during meetings last July to combat criticism for the wall still not being built. He wants to set up web cams to livestream the construction of the wall. Yet, this is against objections from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and senior officials with Customs and Border Protection.
“There will be a wall cam, and it’ll launch early next year,” said a senior White House official who is involved. The goal of the plan is to garner public support for the hundreds of miles of new border wall the president wants to be in place by Election Day 2020.
But the project is already behind schedule and has cost $10 billion so far in taxpayer money, with a push currently from Trump to get even more funding. Additionally, there is still a need to acquire privately-owned land in Texas where the barriers are scheduled to be located. In fact, the government only owns 4 miles of the approximately 166 miles of land they need to build the border wall in Texas.
Added to that, according to people describing internal discussions, both the Army Corps and CBP had informed Kushner that the contractors don’t want their proprietary techniques to be visible to their competitors via a web cam. Both agencies are also concerned that cameras could show U.S. work crews straying to the south side of the border while they work, violating Mexican sovereignty. With a lack of network access, the cameras will require their own Web access and attendants to keep repositioning them.
Yet, Kushner continues to press the idea of the 24-hour wall cam, believing the feeds will show the administration’s progress with the wall. He was asked to take over the management and messaging of the wall by Trump after the government shutdown a year ago when the president became too frustrated with the project not going quickly enough.
“It’s understood that Kushner is so aggressive because the president has been asking him about it all the time,” said a senior White House official.
There’s also been a desire by Trump and other officials for photos and videos of the border project so that the president can share it with his Twitter followers.
The July meeting where Kushner presented his idea also included Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, senior immigration adviser Stephen Miller, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, and Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan. Since then Kushner has been holding meetings on the topic every couple of weeks or so, pushing for faster construction.
It’s not clear how much this web cam live feed project will cost, but CBP has funds available for it, according to one person involved in the discussions.
The border wall project took a hit in news stories recently, after the Washington Post described that drug smugglers were able to saw through the brand new sections of the barrier with just ordinary power tools. CBP officials have acknowledged that there have been breaches, and Trump has stopped claiming that the wall will be impenetrable.
While nearly 81 miles of wall have been finished as of the latest updates, nearly all of those miles are “replacement” barrier that is replacing the older, shorter barrier for a taller barrier thought to be stronger, being built from steel bollards that are 18 to 30 feet high. 155 miles are considered under construction, with 273 miles in a “preconstruction” phase.
Nevertheless, Kushner believes completing the 400-to-500 mile goal is possible, as he thinks the construction pace will double later next year from two to three miles per week to six. A dedicated border wall website is in the works as well, and it will feature live feeds and real-time construction data. One was already created, but the White House was unimpressed with it, so they are working to improve it.
Up until now the barriers that have been constructed have all been replacement for previous fencing and barriers. Last week work began on a stretch of true new fencing in South Texas. It’s the first time Trump’s wall has gone up in a place where there previously was no wall.
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