60 Minutes Takes Down Trump's Favorite WALL Builder, Like Worse Than Rio Grande Erosion Even
CBS News's "60 Minutes" did a good old-fashioned holy shit looka this corruption! story this weekend on Fisher Sand and Gravel, the lucky ducky contracting company from North Dakota that managed to Fox News its way into the biggest single contract for building Trump's border WALL. The report, by Sharyn Alfonsi, goes over some territory familiar to people who've been following WALL nonsense closely, but also breaks some new news on Trump's pressure to get a WALL contract. It also brings the outrageous scam involving a three-mile stretch of privately built WALL in Texas to a wider audience, so good on "60 Minutes." The full segment is viewable here, but here's the opening bit, showing the erosion that's already plaguing the privately built unofficial WALL on the banks of the Rio Grande near Mission, Texas:
Attorney for land owners says parts of southern border wall failing due to erosion youtu.be
If the erosion story sounds familiar, that's because ProPublica covered it in painstaking holy shit detail in July. Furrthermore, that three-mile chunk of WALL was put up under the auspices of "We Build The Wall," the Trump-humping "nonprofit" whose sketchy fundraising led to the August arrests of We Build the Wall founder Brian Kolfage and board member Steve Bannon, along with two other dipshits you've never heard of.
A good bit of the report goes over the ground that ProPublica and the Texas Tribune already covered — ground that was so badly eroded by the river after a mild rainstorm that it left gaping holes under the wall's foundation.
As you may recall, Tommy Fisher, the CEO of Fisher Sand and Gravel, really wanted to build WALL, but the Army Corps of Engineers considered Fisher's plans and prototypes shit, so he went on Fox News again and again to make the case to one viewer in particular that he should be building WALL. It also helped that Fisher gave big campaign contributions to Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota), who also talked up Fisher to the Army Corps and to Trump.
Naturally enough, since the wingnut Right is all one big network of grifters, Fisher and his company got involved with Kolfage's attempt to build WALL on private land, even though the free-standing WALL segments wouldn't ever connect up with the official WALL being built by the Corps of Engineers.
"60 Minutes" spoke to attorney Javier Peña, who represented neighbors of the private WALL. Peña explained that virtually every engineer who's looked at the bollard fencing built by Fisher and We Grift the Wall agrees that it's not so much a matter of whether the Rio Grande will eventually bring down the wall, it's merely a question of when. And as ProPublica reported, the private operation largely ignored the requirement to get the approval of the International Boundary and Water Commission, which has to OK any building along the Rio Grande, since the river is the actual boundary between the US and Mexico.
Peña sued on behalf of the National Butterfly Center, a nearby wildlife refuge that could be affected if the private wall changed the flow of the river in a severe flood, and so did the federal government. That ultimately led to the construction being approved, with minor changes, but the engineering may still be iffy. And along the way, Kolfage launched social media attacks on another neighbor that objected to the private wall, a Catholic chapel, accusing its priest of supporting "child trafficking," because if you don't love WALL, that's just obvious.
The "60 Minutes" piece shows us the official wall, being built well away from the river itself, atop a levee where it won't get washed away. Rudy Karisch, who recently resigned as the Border Patrol's station chief for the Rio Grande valley area, told Alfonsi no wall should "be placed directly on a river to where when you get a heavy rainstorm, you have a probability of having that fence washed away." And the director of the butterfly center, Marianna Trevino-Wright, showed video of herself crawling into a huge gap that washed under the Fisher wall's foundation after a heavy rain — a regular Fisher fissure.
But don't worry! The wall owners fixed up the eroded spots right good, and that wall should stand for ages, or possibly until the election:
2.39" of rain in 72 hours v 6 WEEKS of filling holes, concealing damage & adding "landscape" rocks. THIS IS THE RES… https://t.co/3SMuX8xhYF— National Butterfly (@National Butterfly)1599408853.0
Alfonsi dutifully notes that while Tommy Fisher refused a request to be interviewed, he did tell the Washington Post, following the arrests of Kolfage, Bannon, et al., that he had put some $20 million to $30 million into building the wall near Mission, while getting only a single payment of $1.5 million from the We Build the Wall people, and that he'd cut ties with Kolfage's group even before the arrests.
On t'other hand, Fisher's company has been doing OK for itself despite the bad publicity about all that erosion and the alleged frauding. For one thing, Fisher was not included in the federal indictment, and for another, he's been awarded over $2 billion in contracts for WALL in the last year and a half.
And how did that happen? Donald Trump saw Fisher on Fox News and pushed the Army Corps to give him the contract. Here's where we get new reporting from "60 Minutes":
Three former administration officials tell "60 Minutes" that President Trump quote "pressured" government officials to direct wall contracts to Fisher Sand and Gravel.
Those same sources say that on March 7, 2019, the president summoned DHS officials and Lt. General Todd Semonite, who ran the Army Corps of Engineers, to the Oval Office.
Sources inside the room say the president wanted to know why Tommy Fisher, who promised he could build the wall cheaper and faster, wasn't selected to build it and "exploded into a tirade."
They say DHS officials explained to the president that it was inappropriate for the president to influence the bidding process. But according to those sources, the "pressure continued" with a handwritten note from the president, an email from his personal secretary, and calls from his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Administration officials did not respond to our request for a comment.
And that's the story of how government under the Trump regime works, boys and girls! The best people naturally do well because the invisible hand of the market puts them on Fox News often enough to make Donald Trump decide he wants them to build WALL or set national coronavirus policy.
We're just wondering how long it'll be before the Space Force is directed to find a way to land space capsules in a big pile of MyPillows.
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