Remember my post based on an expose by ProPublica about a short section of the border wall being built on the banks of the Rio Grande by a private company using mostly public funds? That wall made no sense engineering-wise and the wall was already showing signs of erosion and risked falling into the river.
Well, it looks like Trump is now trying to wash his hands of this particular boondoggle and suggesting (of course) that it was done by his enemies to make him look bad.
I disagreed 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 it now doesn’t even work. Should have been built like rest of Wall, 500 plus miles. https://t.co/L8RUPCAhqc
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2020
I get a newsletter from ProPublica because I am a contributor and today’s letter from Stephen Engleberg gives the background to this story that exposes this latest Trump lie that he disagreed with this wall from the very beginning.
Last month, a reporter for our investigative initiative with The Texas Tribune, Jeremy Schwartz, learned that a 3-mile span of border wall constructed with privately raised money was showing troubling signs of erosion at its base just a few months after its completion. Although COVID-19 was already spreading through Texas, we all thought this was worth a trip to the banks of the Rio Grande to see firsthand. The Tribune sent a freelance photographer to document the story. Schwartz joined forces with reporter Perla Trevizo to figure out the meaning of the gashes and gullies in the ground near the wall’s foundations.
Not being engineers or architects, they did what every good reporter does in such situations and started calling experts. As they reported, the consensus was clear: The wall should never have been built so close to the river. One civil engineer who has devoted his career to studying the Rio Grande basin predicted that portions of the structure could end up falling into the river if not fixed.
How could a construction company have made such a mistake? Well, for one thing, the company that built the wall, Fisher Industries, of Dickinson, North Dakota, had no previous experience doing projects in the Rio Grande Valley. For another, the point of this project was to prove that the company could build a wall far more quickly than its competitors, in weeks rather than years. CEO Tommy Fisher compared traditional government wall building to travel by horse and buggy, saying, “I have a Lamborghini, and there’s gonna be this concrete road, and we can do two hundred miles an hour, not ten.”
Fisher, whose attorney told ProPublica the erosion Schwartz had seen was a “normal part of projects like this” is himself an interesting character. He bid on the initial work on Trump’s border wall, and when the Army Corps of Engineers rejected his proposal, he went on a charm offensive on Fox News in which he lavishly praised the president and his policies. Not long after, Trump began pushing the idea that Fisher Industries should get a shot at building parts of the border wall. Soon, the Army Corps gave Fisher Industries a $400 million contract. Then came a $1.3 billion contract for segments of the wall in Arizona.
As Schwartz and Treviso pointed out, Fisher hired a lobbyist and drew on his relationship with North Dakota’s Sen. Kevin Cramer, a Republican, who touted the company to Jared Kushner and Trump. Fisher and his family, we reported in our initial story, gave Cramer at least $24,000 for his successful 2018 run for the Senate.
As he was campaigning for the lucrative Army Corps contracts, Fisher built two walls with help from We Build the Wall, a private group whose board members include Stephen Bannon, Erik Prince and other anti-immigration luminaries in Trump World.
The thrust of Trump’s tweet, for which there is no supporting evidence, is that the president had “disagreed” all along with the decision to build the private wall in this “tricky” part of the border. “It was only done to make me look bad, and perhsps it now doesn’t even work,” he wrote, misspelling “perhaps.” It’s hard to understand why Bannon and Prince, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ brother, would want to make Trump look bad.
This stupider wall was yet another example of the corruption that runs so deep in this government where individuals who cozy up to Trump gain access to vast tranches of government funds. If Trump loses in November, prosecutors are going to have a hell of a time dealing with the huge number of corruption cases to be investigated.