In public, President Trump is always happy to share his thoughts about the wall he intends to build on the southern border, tweeting about it 88 times in the past five months. In private, he’s even more excited to discuss his dream real estate effort, so much so that he would reportedly wake up former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen early in the morning to talk about the barrier.
According to a new report from the Washington Post, Trump can’t stop himself from talking about the many permutations of his still-imaginary border wall. Speaking with White House aides, Homeland Security officials, and military engineers, the president wants the steel slat barriers to be painted “flat back” so that they absorb heat in the summer, making them more difficult to climb. Trump insists that the top of the bollards be pointy, “describing in graphic terms the potential injuries that border crossers might receive.”
According to the Post report, no detail is too small to micromanage. The wall has too many gates. The gates also need to be smaller. It’s got to be as tall as possible, and adhere to a standard height for all of the 400 miles he’s promised to build by next year. He wants to know how migrants might “cut a hole in it, dig under it, climb over it.” He thinks his friends in New York real estate might be able to get the wall up more quickly.
Meanwhile, Trump’s ever-changing whims are reportedly leaving engineers and aides confused, and potentially increasing the wall’s per-mile cost. “Once you paint it, you always have to paint it,” an administration official told the Post. The president received $1.4 billion in wall funding from House Democrats to end the historic shutdown — $3.6 billion less than what he had hoped for when he shuttered the federal government for 35 days this winter.
Prior to her departure from Homeland Security in April, Secretary Nielsen had to sit through “very specific meetings” regarding the wall; she reportedly thought it was a distraction from more concerning issues on the border. Trump would also request that the head of the Army Corps of Engineers Lieutenant General Todd T. Semonite attend meetings, barraging him with wall questions.
It’s not just DHS brass that has to sit through these meetings: Trump has brought up the wall at unrelated briefings so often that aides have reportedly brought sketches to help answer his questions. The aides would then have to suffer through Trump’s frustrations when he found out how little of the structure had been built.