The Trump administration drew the ire of lawmakers with its controversial move to defy Congress and divert $3.6 billion dollars in military funding toward construction of barriers along the border with Mexico. Now it reportedly wants to do it again.
The White House has requested $5 billion for barrier construction in the Department of Homeland Security’s fiscal year 2020 budget, but The Washington Post’s Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey report that if that funding is not approved, senior administration officials are considering a plan to divert another $3.6 billion from the Pentagon’s construction budget.
Three administration officials reportedly told the Post that, at a meeting earlier this month led by Trump adviser and son in law Jared Kushner, senior officials discussed pressing lawmakers to reimburse the $3.6 billion in Pentagon funds that were diverted toward barrier construction this year.
“The plan is to sell it as replenishment money to the Defense Department for the $3.6 billion they took this year,” one unnamed administration official told the Post. “Then once they got it from Congress, they would take it again.”
The Post also reports that planning documents it obtained show the cost of building 509 miles of barriers — enough to fulfill Trump’s pledge to complete nearly 500 miles by the 2020 election — is projected to total $18.4 billion through next year, “far more than the administration has publicly disclosed.” The White House had reportedly said last year that it planned to put up more than 700 miles of barrier over a decade at a cost of $18 billion. The latest cost figures average out to more than $36 million per mile.
The planning documents reportedly also indicate that the government would need to buy or seize under eminent-domain claims land that lies under 187 miles of proposed barrier, more than a third of the planned construction.
Trump’s drive to be able to show some progress on barrier construction has also raised concerns that the Army Corps of Engineers “is being pressured to bypass regular contracting processes in order to complete construction more quickly,” according to a letter sent by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Democratic chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, cited by the Post.