Would it shock you to discover that Donald Trump is engaging in depraved political cronyism when it comes to his big beautiful wall?
The Washington Post reported on Friday that the president has consistently pushed Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Department of Homeland Security officials to award border wall contracts to North Dakota-based Fisher Industries. Fisher is owned by Tommy Fisher, a frequent guest on conservative talk radio and TV and a GOP donor. Per the Post, the most recent example happened just yesterday:
Semonite was summoned to the White House again Thursday, after the president’s aides told Pentagon officials — including Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff — that the president wanted to discuss the border barrier. According to an administration official with knowledge of the Oval Office meeting, Trump immediately brought up Fisher, a company that sued the U.S. government last month after the Army Corps did not accept its bid to install barriers along the southern border, a contract potentially worth billions of dollars.
The Army Corps of Engineers has actual reasons for denying Fisher’s bid to build Trump’s monument to racism:
Fisher Industries was one of the six companies that built border wall prototypes outside San Diego in 2017, but the company’s concrete design did not afford the see-through visibility that DHS officials wanted. While many of the companies declined to discuss their prototypes with reporters, Tommy Fisher was an eager booster for his plan, criticizing the steel bollard design and professing that a more expensive concrete version would be better.
When Fisher began promoting a steel version of the barrier that he said could be installed faster and cheaper, the Army Corps said the design did not meet its requirements and lacked regulatory approvals.
Army Corps of Engineers officials evaluated Fisher’s proposal and said that it didn’t meet the requirements of the project — and that the proposal was cheaper because it wasn’t as high-quality, or as sophisticated, in their view.
None of this has stopped Trump. According to the Post, the president’s campaign to get Fisher the contract is backed by both senior White House adviser Jared Kushner and North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer, who reportedly netted $10,000 in campaign contributions from Fisher and his wife during his run for Senate last year. FEC records show that Fisher also gave thousands to several Arizona Republicans in the last cycle, including Sen. Martha McSally and Reps. Debbie Lesko, David Schweikert and Andy Biggs.
The White House maintains that Trump’s campaign to put money in Fisher’s pocket is out of a desire to save the American government some money. “The President is one of the country’s most successful builders and knows better than anyone how to negotiate the best deals,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told the Post. “He wants to make sure we get the job done under budget and ahead of schedule.” (DHS didn’t respond to the Post’s requests for comment, and the Army Corps of Engineers simply said that it “goes to great lengths to ensure the integrity of our contracting process.”)
Cramer offered a different explanation. “[Fisher has] been very aggressive on TV,” Cramer told the Post. “You know who else watches Fox News?” I think I know.
As if all of this isn’t enough, here’s Trump describing the kind of wall he wants. In typical Trump fashion, it’s predictably designed to inflict maximum pain on immigrants and also tacky as shit.
Most recently, the president has insisted the structure be painted black and topped with spikes, while grumbling to aides that the Army Corps contracting process is holding back his ambitions. At the White House meeting Thursday, he said he doesn’t like the current design for the wall’s gates, suggesting that instead of the hydraulic sliding gate design, the Army Corps should consider an alternative, according to an administration official: “Why not French doors?” the president asked.
Perfect. Just perfect.