With border wall contract, Trump faces corruption concerns

Updated

Those looking for evidence of a shady “swamp” in the nation’s capital should look no further than Donald Trump intervening in the government contracting process, so that a company he likes will build border barriers across an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Washington Post reported overnight:

North Dakota-based Fisher Sand and Gravel won the contract to build in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in Yuma County, Ariz., the Defense Department said, with a target completion date of Dec. 30, 2020.

Trump has repeatedly pushed for Fisher to get a wall-building contract, urging officials with the Army Corps of Engineers to pick the firm – only to be told that Fisher’s bids did not meet standards. Trump’s entreaties on behalf of the company have concerned some officials who are unaccustomed to a president getting personally involved in the intricacies of government contracting.

The government contract to build 31 miles of barriers is worth $400 million.

The first signs of trouble emerged in May, when Trump “personally and repeatedly” started lobbying U.S. officials, including the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to award government contracts to Fisher Industries. The Washington Post reported at the time that the presidential lobbying efforts “alarmed” military commanders and officials at the Department of Homeland Security.

That, of course, was the proper response to the circumstances.

As we discussed in the spring, the fact that Fisher’s CEO, Tommy Fisher, is a Republican donor seems like an obvious issue. In fact, the chief executive and his wife were generous supporters of Sen. Kevin Cramer’s (R-N.D.) campaign, and the GOP senator welcomed Fisher as his guest at Trump’s State of the Union speech earlier this year.

But in this case, that’s only part of the problem. The latest reporting suggests Trump didn’t support Fischer because of campaign contributions; rather, the president intervened because he saw Fisher on Fox News.

Indeed, the Post’s latest report added, “Trump has been enamored with Tommy Fisher, the company’s chief executive, who has made multiple appearances on Fox News to promote his firm and insists that it would do a better job than those the government had already chosen.”

Philip Bump took a closer look in May at how the North Dakota company reached the White House’s radar:

To reach [Trump], Fisher appeared on Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends” for a sit-down interview on March 5. He was on Maria Bartiromo’s morning show on Fox Business Network on April 3. Early the next morning, he was interviewed on the Fox News early morning talk show “Fox and Friends First.” Asked if he supported Trump’s effort to build the wall, Fisher said he did.

On April 16, his company was covered on Fox News’ show “Special Report with Bret Baier.” The segment was used the next morning in another “Fox and Friends First” segment. On April 21, the news show “Fox Report” covered Fisher’s proposal, including a pretaped interview with him.

The pinnacle of that effort, though, came on Sean Hannity’s program on April 25.

There’s no shortage of examples of Trump making substantive decisions based on things he saw on Fox News, but this is ridiculous.