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Border Wall
Construction is seen on the secondary fence that separates the United States and Mexico in the San Diego Sector on Aug. 22, 2019 in San Diego, Calif.Carolyn Van Houten / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

When laws conflict with Trump's wall plans, laws are pushed aside

The list of those who'll lose as a result of Team Trump's mad dash is long, and it will include those who believe in legal limits.


Last week, Donald Trump's Defense Department announced that it's diverting $3.8 billion from military operations to cover construction costs for border barriers -- or as the White House likes to call it, the president's "wall." There are widespread questions about whether moves like these are legal, especially since administrations are not supposed to redirect federal funds in defiance of Congress' wishes.

The White House, however, doesn't appear to care, and Supreme Court conservatives have expressed a degree of indifference to the scheme.

This week, the Trump administration went a little further, announcing that it will waive federal contracting laws in order to speed up the installation of more barriers. As the Associated Press reported, the "waived laws include requirements for having open competition, justifying selections and receiving all bonding from a contractor before any work can begin."

Those laws exist in order to prevent waste and abuses, but the Department of Homeland Security believes it has the authority to waive the restrictions, so it did.

Slate's Mark Joseph Stern did a nice job connecting the dots.

Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has decried the "lawless state of our southern border" -- but his administration has repeatedly suspended the law to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. In less than three years, Trump's Department of Homeland Security has relied on a single federal law, the Real ID Act of 2005, to push aside nearly 50 statutes to put up portions of a border wall. This time around, DHS will disregard a rule that forces contractors to compete for funds (even though Trump campaigned on cutting waste by awarding contracts to the lowest bidder).

Stern's piece added that while the Obama administration never tried to take advantage of provisions from the 2005 law, Trump's DHS has done so repeatedly, overriding dozens of laws protecting "the environment, Native American land, historic preservations, national monuments, and archaeological sites."

All of this is necessary, according to the president and his team, so that Trump can kinda sorta claim to have a kept a misguided campaign promise. Except, that won't be true: the Republican candidate talked about an unnecessary concrete wall that Mexico would pay for, while the Republican president is scrambling to throw together an unnecessary fence that Americans are paying for.

Regardless, the list of those who'll lose as a result of Team Trump's mad dash is long, and it will clearly include those who believe in legal limits.