President Donald Trump is determined to build a wall on part of America's southern border, and he's not willing to let silly things like property rights or federal laws get in the way.
That's the main takeaway from an explosive report published Tuesday night by The Washington Post, which alleges that Trump has ordered aides to "aggressively seize private land" for the border wall. The president 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," the Post reports, citing current and former administration officials.
NEW w/@nickmiroff: Trump has told immigration & Army Corps officials to ignore enviro regulations & seize land in rush to build wall, saying he would pardon those who follow. (Asked for comment, a White House official says pardons were joking.) https://t.co/eY6GsuGfNG
— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) August 28, 2019
The Post's report paints a disturbing picture of a president not only condoning the use of eminent domain to seize private land from Americans, but also suggesting that government employees are free to violate laws in pursuit of that objective and will be shielded from prosecution if their actions lead to criminal charges. If this report is true, Trump has blatantly undermined the rule of law for political gain.
Despite what the president's anti-immigration supporters say, the border wall isn't an effective way to stop illegal immigration. Even Trump has admitted that scaling his proposed wall would be as easy as using a ladder and rope.
But Trump promised that he would build a border wall, and he's already shut down the federal government once in an attempt to get Congress to appropriate funds for the project. He's declared a "national emergency" when one doesn't really exist. He's re-routed funding from other Pentagon projects to pay for the border wall. He's yanked $270 million in disaster relief funding from Puerto Rico—which might take another direct hit from a hurricane later this week—to put towards the wall.
What's he gotten for all that? Not much. In June, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) said it had received enough funding for about 200 miles of new border barriers, but less than 60 miles of new fencing has been built during Trump's tenure, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Remember, Trump promised a 1,000-mile wall during the 2016 campaign.
It's understandable, then, why Trump would be frustrated at the lack of construction. But frustration with the legal process of taking land from private citizens—to say nothing of the difficulties of engineering a wall to cross the difficult terrain along much of the U.S.-Mexico border—is no reason for a president to order his subordinates to break those laws.
Update: Watch Reason's Matt Welch give an excellent rant about how Trump's grotesque views on property rights and eminent domain are boosted by a Congress that does nothing to stop him:
Here is @MattWelch on MSNBC with @craigmelvin talking about, as Matt stated in his tweet, "Trump's border-wall finagling, executive branch aggrandizement, legislative branch abdication, property rights, and so forth" pic.twitter.com/L1uAcDSMZQ
— Andrew Wimsatt (@ajwimsatt) August 28, 2019