President Trump is so eager to complete hundreds of miles of border fence ahead of the 2020 presidential election that he has directed aides to fast-track billions of dollars’ worth of construction contracts, aggressively seize private land and disregard environmental rules, according to current and former officials involved with the project.
He also has told worried subordinates that he will pardon them of any potential wrongdoing should they have to break laws to get the barriers built quickly, those officials said.
Trump has repeatedly promised to complete 500 miles of fencing by the time voters go to the polls in November 2020, stirring chants of “Finish the Wall!” at his political rallies as he pushes for tighter border controls. But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has completed just about 60 miles of “replacement” barrier during the first 2½ years of Trump’s presidency, all of it in areas that previously had border infrastructure.
When aides have suggested that some of his orders are illegal or unworkable, Trump has suggested he would pardon the officials if they would just go ahead, aides said. He has waved off worries about contracting procedures and the use of eminent domain, saying “take the land,” according to officials present at the meetings.
“Don’t worry, I’ll pardon you,” he has told officials in meetings about the wall.
“He said people expected him to build a wall, and it had to be done by the election,” one former official said.
Asked for comment, a White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the president is joking when he makes such statements about pardons.
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