President Donald Trump has directed aides to effectively do whatever it takes to build hundreds of miles of border wall before the 2020 election, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.
When officials have suggested that some of his orders are illegal or unworkable, Trump suggested he would later issue pardons as necessary, the Post reported, citing aides. Trump has also told aides to “fast-track billions of dollars’ worth of construction contracts, aggressively seize private land and disregard environmental rules,” according to the Post.
“Don’t worry, I’ll pardon you,” Trump has supposedly said in meetings about the wall.
Trump, who has made building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border central to his political brand, told aides “people expected him to build a wall, and it had to be done by the election,” one unnamed former official told the Post.
Reached by ABC News, a senior White House official said that the president was only “joking” about pardoning those that break the law to build the wall.
However, many liberals commentators were not laughing. New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, a leading proponent of Trump-Russia conspiracy theories, responded to the news by calling Trump and “instictive authoritarian” and warning that Trump was on the brink of achieving “absolute impunity.”
Why Trump would promise pardons to get the wall built
Trump has repeatedly expressed frustration over the lack of progress on his promised border wall, which has faced blanket opposition from Democrats. In February, the president declared a national emergency at the border to gain access to funds for the wall without congressional approval.
According to the Post, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has completed only 60 miles of barriers to replace currently fencing at the southern border. The Pentagon on Tuesday approved building another 20 miles of barriers, court documents filed Tuesday show.
Still, that would leave Trump more than 400 miles short of his pledge to erect 500 miles of fencing by voting day in 2020.