Trump wall contract doesn’t exist

Pressed by judge, US attorney says he is not aware of it

PRESIDENT TRUMP tweeted in December that he had just given out “a 115-mile-long contract for another large section of the Wall in Texas,” but a government attorney said this week in a Boston courtroom that he was not aware of any such contract.

The admission came during a US District Court hearing Wednesday on a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and the law firm Todd & Weld LLP seeking any records related to the contract mentioned in Trump’s tweet. The Department of Homeland Security and US Customs and Border Protection had so far refused to provide any documents.

According to court transcripts, US District Court Judge William Young  pressed government attorney Peter Bryce three times on whether the contract mentioned by Trump exists. In response to the third request, Bryce said: “No your honor, so far as I know, there is no contract of 115 miles as referenced.”

Bryce referred questions to the press office at the Justice Department, but officials there declined comment. The government admission was first reported by the website Law360.

Daniel McFadden, an attorney for the ACLU of Massachusetts, said the statement by the government’s attorney was shocking. “It would be many millions, if not billions, of dollars to build a structure like that,” he said. “If it turns out the president simply made that up, that would be pretty remarkable.”

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

McFadden noted Trump declared a national emergency along the US-Mexico border last month, an effort to divert billions in military and Defense Department funds for wall construction. The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to overturn the emergency declaration and then sent the measure to the Senate.

“This calls into question whether the president has provided untruthful information about the situation at the border in other contexts, including whether the purported basis for declaring an emergency are untrue,” McFadden said.