President Trump continues his pursuit of a pointless, destructive border wall at all costs.
Despite causing the longest government shutdown in American history in his failed effort to get billions of dollars for border walls, President Trump declared a “national emergency” and transferred nearly $7 billion from military budgets in an attempted run around Congress. We sued the president, and every single court that has considered his actions deemed them illegal.
As the administration continues its search for funds to pilfer, new revelations show that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials are supporting “We Build the Wall” (WBW), a private group run by notorious anti-immigrant stalwarts, including Steve Bannon and Kris Kobach, in an effort to “Build Trump’s Wall.”
Now the Trump administration has awarded a $400 million contract to a company affiliated with WBW to do just that, raising serious concerns of shady dealings and continued attempts by the administration to undercut congressional authority.
We are demanding to know the extent of our government’s dubious relationship with these groups. The public deserves to know what the Trump administration is up to — whether it is colluding with private groups to build a border wall Congress refused to fund and whether it is inappropriately dealing with former government officials and Trump allies.
According to Brian Kolfage, the founder of WBW and long-time promoter of right-wing conspiracy theories, his group has communicated with DHS officials for several months, including at least one meeting in Washington, D.C. with top officials.
We Build the Wall first surfaced last year after Kolfage raised more than $20 million from a GoFundMe campaign to pay for President Trump’s border wall. The group enlisted the assistance of vigilante groups and bombarded local and federal officials with threats. They then constructed a stretch of wall in Sunland Park, NM on private property as well as a still-unpermitted gate across federal property. Top DHS officials publicly praised the private group for it.
In early November, the group brought its playbook of aggression and harassment to the Texas Rio Grande Valley, where they announced construction of 3.5 miles of border wall on the banks of the Rio Grande. They proclaimed they would construct “the first wall of its kind built on a floodplain.”
It would only be the first of its kind because it is illegal. Don’t take our word for it — the federal agency charged with regulating construction along the border, the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), first asked the group to suspend construction. Later, when WBW scoffed at the demand, the IBWC secured a restraining order from a federal judge to stop construction. The neighboring National Butterfly Center, describing the imminent flooding and destruction to its property a “floodplain” wall would cause, won a separate order blocking construction from a Texas judge.
Against the force of two court orders, WBW continues its destructive project. Claiming support from Donald Trump Jr. and DHS officials, WBW vowed to keep building and appear to have continued construction.
Fisher Industries, a North Dakota-based mining company, seems to be the one benefitting from WBW’s rogue projects. The company was not originally selected as a qualified bidder for nearly $10 billion in federal contracts for border barriers, but was then selected for the the $400 million border wall contract anyway. Fisher Industries has reportedly paid lobbyists over $100,000 to engage with lawmakers on border wall construction.
President Trump has also “repeatedly pushed for the company to get a wall-building contract,” according to reports. These efforts, coupled with DHS’s recent public support for WBW, raise serious concerns about whether and how the private wall projects have contributed to Fisher Industries’ selection for the $400 million federal contract. The Department of Defense Inspector General has initiated an audit of the solicitation and awarding of the contract, after the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, called for an investigation into possible “inappropriate influence” by Trump.
That is why today we have filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking information to address these concerns. We demand transparency from DHS and a clear accounting of its dealings with We Build the Wall and companies employed to build private border walls.
“I know someone who can build 200 miles of wall privately in Texas before Election Day, we are ready to go!” Kolfage recently tweeted at President Trump. But Trump and his administration must understand, pursuing destructive border walls at all costs for purely political gain is reprehensible and recent moves to cozy up to private wall groups demand answers.