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National News

Trump Says Flaws in Border Wall Were Done to Embarrass Him

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Trump Says Flaws in Border Wall Were Done to Embarrass Him

2020-07-13 15:28:48

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Section of border wall completed in 2017 (Image source:DickLyon via Wikimedia Commons)

Trump pushed for a contract to be awarded to a Republican donor for a section of the border wall. It ended up being the most expensive contract granted for the wall. Now that the wall is showing signs of erosion just a few months after being erected, Trump has said this was done purposely to embarrass him.

It was reported last week that a segment of the wall along the Texas-Mexico border was showing dangerous "signs of erosion." This particular section of the wall was completed by Fisher Industries of North Dakota. The owner of the company, Tommy Fisher, called the design of the wall a "Lamborghini." That section alone cost $42 million.

"I disagreed," Trump tweeted on Sunday, "with doing this very small (tiny) section of wall, in a tricky area, by a private group which raised money by ads. It was only done to make me look bad, and perhsps [sic] it now doesn't even work. Should have been built like rest of wall, 500 plus miles."

He still needed to show that the border wall is a good thing, however, and that it's close to being done, even though it's clearly not. His follow-up tweet read, "We have now built 240 miles of new border wall on our southern border. We will have over 450 miles built by the end of the year. Have established some of the best border numbers ever."

The reports of the erosion highlighted a three-mile section of border barrier: "Six engineering and hydrology experts consulted by ProPublica and The Texas Tribune said it was concerning to see the level of erosion around the fence so soon after construction and added that segments of Fisher's steel structure could topple into the river if not fixed."

The Associated Press reported that Fisher said the president was misinformed. "The wall will stand for 150 years, you mark my words," he said.

Trump had fought for Fisher's company to win the contract, though. He pushed the company in meetings with border officials and military commanders after Fisher pushed him to be hired.

The company had been passed over when bids first went out for the border wall. Fisher began praising Trump on the news, donating to his allies, and creating ties with them as well. This included the president's former chief strategist Steve Bannon and GOP Senate candidate Kris Kobach.

Fisher, a Republican donor, ended up receiving a $1.5 billion deal to build 42 miles of fencing through southern Arizona. It cost more than $300 million per mile, making it the most expensive contract for the border wall.

It was known even at the time the contract was granted that engineers would have a difficult time with the steep terrain that has water crossings and includes the Santa Cruz River basin that is known to flood. An official with knowledge said Fisher's bid was the lowest for that particular section of the border. Army Corps of Engineers rules forced the contract to go to the lowest bidder.

House Homeland Security Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) slammed the contract at the time because it wasn't officially announced. He also noted construction and contracting decisions should be paused until an investigation into Fisher was completed and a time when it was safer to resume "nonessential construction projects" during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), a Trump ally, had urged him to hire Fisher and had been critical of the Corps of Engineers for not granting Fisher a contract initially. Fisher had donated to Cramer's Senate campaign and did appearances with him last year.

Fisher has built border barriers before on private land for the the group We Build the Wall. On the board of this group is Bannon, Kobach, and Blackwater USA founder Erik Prince. Brian Kolfage, the president of the group, is known to go up against environmental groups and immigrant advocates.

"ANOTHER HUGE WIN! Congrats Tommy Fisher!" Kofage tweeted after the contract was granted. "It's clear you built @WeBuildtheWall the best border wall ever on the US border, and now you're being rewarded for your hard work."

Fisher had said he could build the wall faster and for less money. It's obvious why that was attractive to Trump. He needs it done by Election Day, and most figures show he'll fall short, so a contractor saying his company would do it cheaper and better was an obvious draw. 

But now it's been badly constructed, and Trump is placing the blame on Fisher, saying he did it intentionally to embarrass him.

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