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Trump ‘Exploded into a Tirade’ When Pressuring DHS Officials to Award Massive Border Wall Contracts: 60 Minutes

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 30: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the James Brady Briefing Room of the White House July 30, 2020 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day Trump suggested in a tweet that November’s general election should be postponed, citing his unsubstantiated assertions of widespread mail-in voter fraud amid the coronavirus pandemic.

President Donald Trump consistently “pressured” officials in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to direct more than $1 billion in government contracts to a North Dakota construction firm out despite its work being repeatedly rejected as substandard, 60 Minutes reported on Sunday. The company, Fisher Sand & Gravel (FSG), had only ever constructed one such wall—a privately-funded project that experts say is in danger of collapsing into the Rio Grande. But FSG CEO Tommy Fisher caught the president’s attention by making bold promises in a series of appearances on Fox News.

As previously reported by Law&Crime, FSG’s initial border wall prototypes were rejected by the Army Corps of Engineers for failing to meet the requirements to be awarded the contract. It was determined that the submitted proposals lacked both “quality” and “sophistication.” In response, Fisher appeared on a slew of conservative cable news shows where he played to Trump’s impatience with the wall’s stagnant progress—repeatedly claiming that FSG could build more than 200 miles of new barrier on the southern border in less than a year.

Three former administration officials detailed the extent to which Trump inserted himself in the process, overruling top Army Corps officials to steer contracts to FSG.

“They say DHS officials explained to the president that it was inappropriate for the president to influence the bidding process,” the report stated. “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.”

The officials also confirmed to 60 Minutes that on March 7, 2019, Trump “summoned” several DHS officials as well as Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

“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,'” 60 Minutes reported.

The federal government awarded FSG a $1.3 billion border wall contract in May 2020—the largest such contract to date. That contract, as well as an earlier $400 million deal, are currently being audited by the Defense Department’s Inspector General (IG) after lawmakers raised concerns about whether the White House improperly influencing the bidding process.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, told 60 Minutes that Trump intervening to advocate for a specific contractor violated the federal government’s procurement regulations.

FSG has also a checkered past unrelated its border wall projects. The company was fined $150,000 after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found that two female employees had been subjected to “egregious verbal sexual harassment” by their supervisor.

Tommy Fisher’s brother and FSG’s previous CEO, Michael Fisherpleaded guilty in 2009 to tax fraud after admitting that he used company money to pay for personal expenses, such as renovations to his private residence and expensive vacation trips. He was sentenced to 37 months in prison.

[image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.