July 12, 2020; Texas Tribune
Nonprofit news sites the Texas Tribune and ProPublica have teamed up to give us an update on the wall (alternately dubbed a fence) a group of Trump supporters volunteered to build when Congress refused to give the president what he wanted to build an official one.
But while We Build the Wall may have been made up of presidential boosters—including Steve Bannon, who sits on the board—the president is not currently boosting them back, saying now that they have embarrassed him on purpose.
“I disagreed with doing this very small (tiny) section of wall, in a tricky area by a private group which raised money by ads,” tweeted Trump, in response to reports about the land beneath the wall actively eroding. “It was only done to make me look bad, and perhaps it now doesn’t even work. Should have been built like rest of Wall, 500 plus miles.”
Never mind that Tommy Fisher, who built this section of the DIY wall, was given a billion-dollar contract by the administration to build additional stretches of the wall in Arizona. That occurred in May, even as an ongoing audit of a previous contract with Fisher’s firm was being conducted by the Pentagon’s inspector general.
On Sunday, Rep. Bennie Thomson (D-MS), who called for the audit, emailed a response to the Texas Tribune. “The president isn’t telling the truth again,” he wrote. “The administration has awarded huge contracts to the same company, which is under federal investigation, that built this fence.”
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His Administration has also entertained outsourcing to private firms to get more mileage done before the election at the expense of proper oversight. There is no reason for construction to continue during a pandemic.
US Attorney Ryan Patrick of the Southern District of Texas sued Fisher Sand and Gravel, its subsidiaries, and We Build the Wall for the International Boundary and Water Commission to stop it from building the fence without submitting a detailed engineering study to determine the possible environmental impact on local private holdings and the river itself—a measure that would, in retrospect, have been wise.
“We already owned the land a few hundred yards from the river, and it cut the peninsula instead of following the river,” Patrick tweeted Sunday. “We said it was too close to the water, erosion would be an issue, the location made no sense, etc. Now we risk the thing falling down in a big storm/flood.”
Brian Kolfage, the founder of We Build the Wall, seems willing to engage. “The private wall that @WeBuildtheWall built and funded is @DHSgov @CBP ENDORSED and APPROVED. Never forget it,” he tweeted, along with a video of Border Patrol leadership supporting its initiatives.
Indeed, Kolfage appears to have expected loyalty, saying in December, “We’ve gotten the support of the president firsthand, we’ve had people to meet with the president who have informed him directly of what’s going on, and President Trump loves what we are doing.”
“But,” he added, “he doesn’t come out and support much because we believe that the leftists will try to use it against him by saying ‘this private industry is doing more than he’s doing’ and things like that, they’ll try to spin it, so we believe that’s why he’s quiet about it up on the forefront but supports us in the back.”
This story reminds us of a Carl Hiaasen novel in many ways. But the fact that the president’s attention at this particular desperate juncture is focused on this and the commutation of Roger Stone’s sentence just adds to the sense that anything presidential has long since left the building. We can only hope all of those loyalists who donated towards the $25 million fund to build this fence-slash-wall have taken note.—Ruth McCambridge