Trump rips Texas bor­der wall built by his sup­port­ers

The News Tribune - - Front Page - BY NOMAAN MER­CHANT

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Sun­day crit­i­cized a pri­vately built bor­der wall in South Texas that’s show­ing signs of ero­sion months af­ter go­ing up, say­ing it was “only done to make me look bad,” even though the wall was built af­ter a month­s­long cam­paign by his sup­port­ers.

The group that raised money on­line for the wall pro­moted it­self as sup­port­ing Trump dur­ing a government shut­down that started in De­cem­ber 2018 be­cause Congress wouldn’t fund Trump’s de­mands for a bor­der wall. Called “We Build the Wall,” the group has raised more than $25 mil­lion pro­mot­ing it­self as sup­port­ing the pres­i­dent.

For­mer Trump chief strate­gist Steve Ban­non joined the group’s board, and Trump ally Kris Kobach be­came its gen­eral coun­sel. Kobach is now seek­ing the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion for U.S. Se­nate in Kansas.

The com­pany that built the pri­vate sec­tion in Jan­uary, North Dakota-based Fisher In­dus­tries, has since won a $1.3 bil­lion bor­der wall con­tract from the fed­eral government, the largest award to date.

The sec­tion in ques­tion is a roughly 3-mile fence of steel posts just 35 feet from the Rio Grande, the river that forms the U.S.Mex­ico bor­der in Texas. That’s much closer to the river than the government or­di­nar­ily builds bor­der bar­ri­ers in South Texas be­cause of con­cerns about ero­sion and flood­ing that could vi­o­late U.S. treaty obli­ga­tions with Mex­ico.

Trump tweeted Sun­day in re­sponse to a ProPublica-Texas Tri­bune re­port that the river­bank has started to erode. A fed­eral judge on Wed­nes­day or­dered at­tor­neys for Fisher In­dus­tries and op­po­nents of the pri­vate wall to set a sched­ule for ex­perts to visit the site and in­spect any ero­sion.

“I dis­agreed with do­ing this very small (tiny) sec­tion of wall, in a tricky area, by a pri­vate group which raised money by ads,” Trump wrote. “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.”

Tommy Fisher, CEO of Fisher In­dus­tries, said Sun­day that he thought the pres­i­dent “just got some mis­in­for­ma­tion on this stuff” and that he had “com­plete re­spect” for Trump.

Fisher ac­knowl­edged

there had been some ero­sion on the land in front of the fenc­ing caused by rain and the nat­u­ral flow of the river. He said his crews planned to in­stall more or­ganic ma­te­rial to fill the gaps or insert rock if ero­sion con­tin­ues, but that other parts of the wall re­mained un­touched.

“The wall will stand for 150 years, you mark my words,” Fisher said.

Ex­perts and peo­ple who live and work near the prop­erty have warned that build­ing so close to the river would cause flood­ing or a break in the fence. And a bi­na­tional com­mis­sion ear­lier this year found that the pro­ject vi­o­lates U.S. treaty obli­ga­tions and called on Fisher to make changes.

Mar­i­anna Trevino Wright, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the non­profit Na­tional But­ter­fly Cen­ter, has long op­posed the pro­ject and warned it could dam­age the cen­ter, which is ad­ja­cent to where the pri­vate wall was be­ing built.

“It is trou­bling that Pres­i­dent Trump ad­mits to prior knowl­edge of this pro­ject – one he should have in­sisted com­ply with U.S. law, rather than pro­ceed in vi­o­la­tion of it,” she said Sun­day.

Orig­i­nally pro­moted by We Build the Wall, the pri­vate sec­tion in­stead be­came a show­case for Fisher, who has pro­moted his com­pany heav­ily on Fox News and con­ser­va­tive me­dia. We Build the Wall ul­ti­mately pro­vided about $1.5 mil­lion for the pro­ject and Kobach said in a pre­vi­ous court hear­ing that his group was mostly pro­vid­ing “so­cial me­dia cheer­lead­ing.”

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