Donald Trump visited California this week for some lucrative fundraising events, but his West Coast trip included a stop yesterday at the border -- where the president was able to visit an area where some old fencing has been replaced with newer fencing. (Mexico, of course, has not and will not pay for any of this, despite the Republican's campaign promises.)
Minutes earlier, an administration official rejected the idea that the wall is a "vanity project." The president's autograph on a steel slat suggested otherwise.
During the event, Trump spent a fair amount of time bragging about how impressed he is with the replacement slats and his border efforts, fueled in part by the White House's recent raid on the Pentagon's budget. What Trump did not discuss, however, was the latest warnings from the Defense Department about the president's dubious scheme.
The Washington Post had this striking report yesterday:
The Pentagon warned of dire outcomes unless Congress paid for urgently needed military construction projects nationwide -- the same projects that have now been canceled to fund President Trump's border wall.The warnings are contained in Defense Department budget requests sent to lawmakers in recent years. They include potentially hazardous living conditions for troops and their families, as well as unsafe schools that would impede learning. In numerous cases, the Defense Department warned that lives would be put at risk if buildings don't meet the military's standards for fire safety or management of explosives.
This comes less than a week after NBC News obtained a report compiled by the U.S. Air Force, which concluded that money diverted away from military construction projects "poses various national security risks for the U.S. armed forces."
At some level, Trump must've known this was a possibility. We're talking about a series of projects, requested by U.S. military leaders, scrutinized by Pentagon officials and members of Congress, and approved by congressional appropriators. The initiatives were deemed important and worthy of federal investment.
Trump, meanwhile, doesn't appear to care. He wants a fence he can pretend is a wall, and he needs something to brag about to his followers during the Republican's 2020 re-election campaign. If that means the U.S. military has to go without a series of projects that the brass considers important, so be it.
As we discussed last week, there is a degree of irony to the circumstances: for reasons he's struggled to explain, the president insists he needs to raid the Defense Department's budget to pay for a "wall" in order to protect our national security. According to the military, Trump's gambit will undermine our national security.