President Donald Trump pushed back Wednesday against “haters” who say he is making little headway on his signature campaign promise of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, though he admitted that much of the work currently being done was “pure renovation.”
“Much of the Wall being built at the Southern Border is a complete demolition and rebuilding of old and worthless barriers with a brand new Wall and footings. Problem is, the Haters say that is not a new Wall, but rather a renovation. Wrong, and we must build where most needed,” he wrote on Twitter. “Also, tremendous work is being done on pure renovation – fixing existing Walls that are in bad condition and ineffective, and bringing them to a very high standard!”
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Trump oversaw the longest government shutdown in history earlier this year, an impasse created by his insistence on wall funding. His administration also remains mired in a legal battle over his attempt to skirt Congress to secure funding for his proposed border wall by declaring a national emergency.
The president has frequently touted the progress on his wall — much of which he’s portrayed as new construction, even though it is not. Trump has also occasionally acknowledged that current wall construction is mostly replacement work.
Earlier this year, under pressure to show progress on his marquee campaign promise, Trump traveled to California to unveil the first new segment of replacement border wall completed during his administration, though even that project had been in the works since the Obama administration.
The president’s defensive tweets appear to have been prompted by a segment on his favorite morning show, Fox News’s “Fox & Friends,” with the missive coming little over an hour after the issue was briefly discussed.
“Big story in Drudge today, we’ve only built a mile and a half — a mile and a half of wall but yet, we’ve been allocated to build at least 100 miles of wall,” co-host Brian Kilmeade exclaimed at the top of Wednesday’s show, referring a story posted by conservative news aggregator Drudge Report. “But for some reason they just can’t seem to get it done. Unbelievable.”
“A lot of conservatives say it needs to be done,” co-host Ainsley Earhardt chimed in.
Drudge linked to a Bloomberg story on the ongoing lawsuit over Trump’s emergency declaration to unlock Pentagon funding for the wall. The story cites a Tuesday court filing in which a lawyer for the House of Representatives revealed that as of April 30, U.S. Customs and Border Protection had reported only 1.7 miles of “fencing” with the $1.57 billion in funding Congress approved last fiscal year.
At a rally in Pennsylvania on Monday, the president vowed to supporters that his administration would have 500 miles of wall completed by the 2020 election — an increase from his previous promises to have at least 400 miles of wall finished by the end of next year. According to the Associated Press, the Trump administration has only awarded contracts for 244 miles of wall construction, more than half of which is tied up in legal challenges and the majority of which would go toward replacement projects.
The Trump administration has asked Congress to fund an additional 200 miles of border wall in its latest budget request, an ask that has a slim chance of making it through the Democrat-controlled House.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also rebuffed the criticism during an appearance on Fox News, saying in an interview with the network that its earlier report cited “an incorrect figure,” even though the number came from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
“There is far more than two miles that have been built,” she said, insisting the administration is “still on track to get close to 500 miles built by the end of the year.”
“The Army Corps of Engineers, working with DHS and DOD, are putting a tremendous amount of effort into not just building new wall, taking down some of the barriers that have existed that are completely ineffective, and putting in the very effective border wall they have been putting in the last couple months,” she told “Fox & Friends.” “That’s gonna continue and we’re making great progress on that front.”
Kilmeade then asked how much of the wall had been erected.
“I know there have been — there’s over 100 miles, I think it is close to 115 miles have been finished,” Sanders responded, though she didn’t specify how much of that amount was new construction. “Again we feel comfortable and confident we’re on track to get right around 500 finished by the end of the year.”