There is a peculiar familiarity to Donald Trump’s pitch for his useless vanity wall on the southern border. Anyone who has seen a classic film about smarmy con artists will recognize the scheme that Trump is employing. Essentially he is seeking to get paid many times over for a single item. None of the victims of this scam will receive anything of value for their money.
That’s precisely what Trump is doing. And he even reiterated it on Thursday morning as he left for a visit to the scene of the crime in Texas. His comments to the press swung between utterly dishonest and frighteningly incoherent. But in the end they were self-serving and disrespectful to the American people who suffer the burdens of his ignorance and hostility.
Trump ventures down to Texas to repeat his flagrant border wall lies.pic.twitter.com/fdyz56xKjh
— News Corpse (@NewsCorpse) January 10, 2019
Notable in this tantrum were Trump’s denials that he ever said that Mexico would pay for the wall directly. He seems to think that because he didn’t specify that Mexico would pay by check, that he never meant that they would be responsible for paying directly at all. But when you repeatedly ask your cult rally followers “Who’s gonna pay for the wall?” and then join them in responding that “Mexico will pay for the wall,” that has only one meaning.
Additionally Trump actually did make statements that Mexico would pay directly. In fact, they are still on his website in a PDF position statement that says: “It’s an easy decision for Mexico: make a one-time payment of $5-10 billion to ensure that $24 billion continues to flow into their country year after year. There are several ways to compel Mexico to pay for the wall.”
More to the point, Trump has been making the case that the wall is either already being paid for by Mexico, or soon will be, for some time. In fact, he says explicitly that the wall is being paid for “many, many times over.” Let’s take a look at these alleged remittances:
Trump: “If we had the wall we would have tremendous savings. I really believe the barrier or wall would pay for itself every three or four months, and maybe even better than that.”
Here Trump is implying that savings from law enforcement activities amounts to payment for the wall. Of course those savings are in no way the result of any payments received from Mexico, directly or otherwise. What’s more, if Trump thinks that his wall is going to eliminate drug trafficking, and the costs associated with it, he’s dumber than we thought. After all, ninety percent of illegal drugs come into the country through legal ports of call. And by the way, so do most undocumented immigrants. His wall doesn’t address any of that. But then there’s also this:
Trump: “When I said Mexico will pay for the wall in front of thousands and thousands of people, obviously they’re not gonna write a check, but they are paying for the wall indirectly many, many times over by the really great trade deal we just made.”
No, they aren’t. That isn’t how trade deals work. Mexico pays nothing via these deals. It is the private businesses on both sides of the border who incur both the costs and benefits as stipulated in the agreement.
The problem with Trump’s arguments is that he’s admitting to financial fraud. It is illegal to request and receive payments from multiple sources for a single product. For instance, you can’t sell your car to six different people, collect all their money, and leave town. But the history of Trump’s remarks on payment for the wall indicate that he’s seeking compensation directly from Mexico, and also via law enforcement savings, and also by businesses engaged in trade. And finally by the American people, who he’s holding hostage to his ludicrous demands by shutting down the government.
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That’s at least four payees for a single wall. How many times does he want to get paid for this boondoggle? And who’s getting all the extra money? And why is he even asking American citizens to foot the bill – and suffer the Trump Shutdown – when he says he has already secured payment?
The answers to these questions are likely out of reach because Trump will never provide them, or he will engage in a rambling, incomprehensible filibuster until people stop asking. But the bottom line is that, by his own admission, there is no need to get funds from taxpayers, and Trump’s efforts to do so are both immoral and unlawful.