President Trump could divert funds from the Puerto Rico reconstruction effort, which was the result of an actual emergency, to fund a border wall that addresses an emergency that doesn’t appear to actually exist.
The president has been briefed on a plan to use Army Corps of Engineers personnel and funds to construct 315 miles of border wall, according to three officials familiar with the briefing. Much of that money has already been allocated to projects nationwide, including reconstruction of areas of Puerto Rico devastated by hurricanes in 2017.
This would be the likely implementation of using a national emergency to fund the border wall, something Trump seems increasingly willing to do if Democrats don’t capitulate to his demands for wall funding.
“If this doesn’t work out, probably I will do it, I would almost say definitely,” Trump said. “This is a national emergency.”
The Trump administration has had a caustic relationship with the rebuilding of Puerto Rico. Trump famously picked fights with the mayor of San Juan in the days and weeks after Hurricane Maria, threw paper towels at Puerto Ricans during his visit to the island territory, denied the death toll of the hurricanes and shamelessly favored mainland Texas — which fared the terrible storm season far better than Puerto Rico.
Taking money from the reconstruction effort to build a wall that is largely seen as a vanity project is just one more in a long line of insults the president has given Americans in Puerto Rico since the hurricanes.
This move to further de-prioritize Puerto Rico to favor the president’s personal agenda comes as Democrats renew efforts to investigate the administration’s response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria and the abysmal disaster response. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) called for an independent commission into American hurricane response like the one that produced the 9/11 report.
“I am proud to fight for Puerto Rico in the Senate, and I urge my colleagues to support this legislation just as they would if a natural disaster hit their own states,” said Gillibrand.
As of now, the government has been in a partial shutdown for almost three full weeks over the president’s demand for the wall. It will become the longest shutdown in modern history on Friday.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.