For months, President Trump has repeatedly and aggressively urged the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Homeland Security officials to award border wall contracts to Fisher Industries, a North Dakota construction company whose CEO frequently appears on Fox News to pitch his wall-building skills, The Washington Post reports, citing four administration officials and Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), a Fisher friend and advocate.
Trump's "push for a specific company has alarmed military commanders and DHS officials," the Post says, given "decades-old procurement rules that require government agencies to seek competitive bids, free of political interference." Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the commanding general of the Army Corps, and former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen separately explained to Trump that he can't just pick a company, the Post reports, but "Fisher was added to a pool of competitors after the Army Corps came under pressure from the White House."
Fisher CEO Tommy Fisher has said on Fox News and other conservative outlets that he can build barrier wall faster and cheaper using a new technique his company is showcasing in New Mexico, where it's building a half-mile of border fence on private land using crowdsourced funds. Trump reportedly repeats Fisher's claims.
DHS rejected the concrete border wall prototype Fisher built, and Fisher switched to promoting a steel design. Army Corps officials evaluated Fisher's new proposal and determined it doesn't meet the project's requirements, lacked regulatory approval, and cost less because it wasn't as high-quality as competing bids, the Post reports. Also, a barrier project Fisher did in San Diego was late and over-budget, DHS told the Army Corps. Fisher sued the government in late April.
"The president is one of the country's most successful builders and knows better than anyone how to negotiate the best deals," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the Post. Cramer said Trump learned about the company from Tommy Fisher's Fox News appearances. "He always brings them up," he said. Peter Weber