President Donald Trump wants his social media followers to know that even if Congress is unwilling to give him as much money as he wants for a border wall, he’s nonetheless building it. And he really is — with a couple significant caveats.
On Wednesday, Trump tweeted a time-lapse video from the Army Corps of Engineers that shows construction of bollard fencing along the southern border in Santa Teresa, New Mexico.
“We have just built this powerful Wall in New Mexico,” Trump wrote. “Completed on January 30, 2019 — 47 days ahead of schedule! Many miles more now under construction! #FinishTheWall”
But Trump’s claim that the project in the video was “just built” is false. According to KOAT-TV in Albuquerque, the project — $73 million to build a “column-style wall that stretches for 20 miles west of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) port of entry in Santa Teresa” — was actually completed last November.
That video Trump is tweeting to show the wall under construction? Not true, says *the Army Corps of Engineers PAO chief who provided the old footage.* “It’s a replacement project… I’ve been in this division for 12 years and we were doing border wall replacement work back then.” https://t.co/DOWvYNklrR
— Adam Weinstein (@AdamWeinstein) February 21, 2019
The wall-like structure in Santa Teresa isn’t new in more ways than one. The structure replaced fences and other barriers that were already there, KOAT-TV reports.
The AP reported that the project was “funded with operations and maintenance money budgeted through the Army Corps of Engineers,” which explains why the Army Corps of Engineers’ logo is on the video.
While the time frame that Trump presented in his tweet is misleading, it is true that the project was completed months ahead of schedule. For Trump, though, the exact facts are somewhat irrelevant — he just came out of a bruising battle with House Democrats over wall funding that he objectively lost, which resulted in him turning to a legally questionable and politically dubious emergency declaration to reallocate funding from other projects to build the wall. Now he wants to say that he won anyway, no matter the reality.
“THE WALL IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION RIGHT NOW!”
On Thursday, Trump retweeted the video he posted the day before and wrote, “THE WALL IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION RIGHT NOW!”
Trump’s tweet is technically true, though it depends how you define “wall.” CBP recently started work on a project to upgrade 14 miles of existing border structures near San Diego. Work is also set to begin soon on a six-mile section of new border wall in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.
Funding for all of the aforementioned projects came from congressional appropriations bills Trump signed in 2017 and 2018. Both of those bills explicitly prohibited Trump from building border wall prototypes he made a show of inspecting in San Diego in March of last year.
So while it’s true that Trump is building walls, he’s arguably not building “THE WALL.”
For Trump, perception is more important than reality
Trump’s tweets boasting about new wall construction come days after he declared a state of emergency he hopes will allow him to divert $3.6 billion in funds appropriated for military construction to build more border wall.
Lawsuits against Trump’s declaration have already been filed by the ACLU and a coalition of 16 states. While it’s unclear how the legal fight will play out, Trump did himself no favors last Friday when he said during the press conference in which he announced the emergency, “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.”
Meanwhile, House Democrats plan to introduce a resolution to terminate Trump’s emergency declaration as soon as Friday, February 22. As FiveThirtyEight detailed, the resolution is likely to be approved in the Democrat-controlled House and also has a good chance in the Republican-controlled Senate, which could force Trump to issue the first veto of his presidency.