The Arizona-Mexico border fence near Naco, Ariz., March 29, 2013.
Samantha Sais/Reuters

Trump takes his border-wall campaign in an even more misleading direction

Late last week, Donald Trump delivered remarks at the White House, where he boasted about the imminent start of construction on his border wall. “We have $1.6 billion for the wall,” the president said, referring to funds in the new government spending bill. “That will start immediately.”

In case there was any ambiguity, Trump added that at least some of the money would go toward “new wall” construction,” not just replacing old barriers.

These claims were false. There is money in the new spending package for border security, but the bill does not fund the construction of a new border wall as envisioned by the president. At a certain level Trump must know that – because he wants to divert money from the Pentagon budget to pay for the project Congress hasn’t funded.

And yet, there was the president yesterday, publishing a tweet that read, “Great briefing this afternoon on the start of our Southern Border WALL!” The text was accompanied by a series of photographs featuring building equipment, workers in hard hats, and construction along the border.

The typical American might see the tweet and the images, and assume that the president is keeping his word. After all, Trump said construction would begin “immediately,” and there are pictures of building crews getting to work, right there on the president’s Twitter account.

Except as BuzzFeed explained, “The images tweeted by the president were not of his long-promised wall, but a months-long project to replace existing portions of a wall along Calexico, California.”

The project, which started in 2009, will replace a 2.25-mile section in the California-Mexico border wall, according to a statement last month from US Customs and Border Protection.

The original wall in that section, built in the 1990s, had been built from recycled metal scraps and old landing mat materials, the agency said.

So when Trump wrote yesterday about “the start” of construction on a border wall, what he ended up pointing to were pictures of an Obama-era project.

Circling back to something we discussed the other day, I remain curious about whether Trump is fully aware of the deception. Did he genuinely believe those pictures were proof of his beloved wall taking shape, in which case he’s alarmingly confused, or did he hope to pull a fast one on the public, in which case he was brazenly dishonest?