President Donald Trump Faces Private Landowners In Challenge To His Border Wall | NBC News NOW

Channel: NBC News
Published: 12/27/2019 05:49 AM

Landowners in Texas are the latest obstacle for construction on President Trump’s southern border wall. The government may have to pay the owners a high price and convince them the wall is for a national emergency. » Subscribe to NBC News: » Watch more NBC video:...

Building a wall at the border was one of president trump's biggest campaign promises now, as he heads into his 2020 re-election campaign, the construction of that wall. It'S running into another snag landowners in texas, julia ainsley joins me now and julie. You'Ve been reporting on the border for a long time now the creation of this wall for a long time now and the president has hit a few roadblo ...
ks along the way what's going on here with private lands in texas. Well, david, it's interesting! These are roadblocks that people brought up when he was campaigning on the promise of the wall that he always you know turned them aside said, mexico will pay for this andsurely we'll have a big beautiful wall. Now the obstacles we're talking about today comes not from who's going to pay for it necessarily, but really from the landowners themselves. In texas, texas has a large the largest amount of land on the border that is privately owned, and these are landowners who are her trying to with holes hold on to their own land before the government comes and takes it away so eminent domain, one route that The government does have is to go ahead and start building and then negotiating court later the amount that they will be paid. But in order to do that, they have to argue that this is a matter of a nationalemergency and, as we've seen, that argument has already been tested in court. One lawyer, i spoke to who's representing a client with land on the border, said that his client has actually been in a court battle over protecting his land since 2008, when the bush administration tried to acquire it for a similar purpose. Truly, how big a deal is this using eminent domain as you as you look at how they might construct this wall as long a wall as the president once how important a tool is this to the administration? Well in texas? It'S everything! If you look at areas of california, like the san diego sector, a lot of that land is already ownedby the government, but in texas they really can't build what they want to build and the president couldn't make good on his promise. But she is now defined as building 450 miles of border wall by the end of 2021. He won't be able to make good on that unless they can start seizing this land through eminent domain, and we understand that he hasn't asked his senior advisor and son-in-law jared kushner with this very task, but they're already running into a lot of issues in court and It could drag out dragged out that timeline and then for the landowners themselves. If the government does make the case, this is a matter of a national emergency andthe landowners may have to secede and say this and give it to the government.

Truly, let me ask you about the the legal strategy here and we've seen a number of these challenges: administration decisions being challenged in a court most recently there was this effort to use dod funding to pay for the cost of this wall that was struck down in A court help us understand the jurisprudence here, the legal strategy the administration is working with and why we keep seeing the challenges that we've been seeing. Well again, it comes back to this matter of if it's a national emergency. I think that's why that particular court decision is so interesting david, because the courtessentially ruled that they cannot use defense money, because this isn't in the interest of national security, that they don't need a wall to protect the united states and to fulfill the interest of the Defense department - and so they aren't able to use that pot of money. But that doesn't mean that the administration isn't going forward with other money that has been allocated and that they're not going forward with seizing the land that they would need to then construct. But that could be another hindrance as they start to secure contracts and to find people who will build this wall as they secure the land in the future. Julie mentioned done so much reporting on this issuesomething else. You'Ve reported on over the course of this year is this investigation by the pentagon's internal watchdog into the allocation of a four hundred million dollar contract to a company that the president has been touting along the way? What'S the status of that investigation within the dod, so the name of the company david is fisher, sand & gravel they're out of north dakota and they're relatively small, and they have been campaigning very hard to try to get a contract to build part of the wall. They'Ve done a lot of that through senator cramer of north dakota, then we understand that kramer's office talked to the white house and the president himself told his advisorsand people in the defense department that he wanted fisher sand and gravel to be chosen as one of the Winners of those contracts and officials, i spoke to said that they had to remind the president. That is not the way the federal procurement process works. You cannot pick a winner, mr. president, and then that, for as far as they knew, they thought the she had fallen. Silent that fisher simply did not have the resources to come forward and win one of those contracts, but in early december they did win one of those contracts, our four hundred million dollars to build 35 miles of wall along the border in texas.

So there are a lot ofquestions now in the department of defense, watchdog of their inspector general is looking into how this contract was awarded if it was done properly or maybe if there was some outside influence, and i should also add that my colleague courtney qb and I have recently reported that the government accountability office has also now been asked to look into the same contract. Last question here is just about what the president's ambitions are and i suspect this campaign continues he's going to continue talking about the wall, but he said he wants to build 450 miles of it by next year. Given what we've been talking about the issues with them and in domain, the challenges that theadministration has faced, how likely is it that he's going to have that to show for himself as he continues to campaign it's hard to imagine how that gets done david, i mean I understand once you have a contract, something like this can be built in a matter of months, but think about what we're already looking at the court challenges on the federal level in terms of funding the private, the the civil lawsuits over how much the government needs To pay whether or not they can seize that land until that amount of money is negotiated between the landowner and the government. There are huge problems and, let's think about the fact that the president has beenin office since 2017, and already we have only seen, maybe about nine miles of actual new border wall. What the president tweets about those videos, you see: that's, usually replacement or repair of existing border barrier, which is much easier to do. You don't have to go through the legal process. You do to acquire new land, so you know i don't like to rule anything out, but i think it it would be a significant challenge to meet that promise. Significant challenge, julie, ansley. Thank you very much as always appreciate it. Thank you. David. Hey, nbc news viewers.

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