Trump: “Build WALL through M!”

Developments on Day 432 of the Trump Administration:

Trump Idea Unlikely to Get Through Congress

Unable to push Mexico into paying for his border wall and blocked by Congress from full funding, Donald Trump is now hoping the US military will fund his $25 billion project.

Trump told several advisors last week of his idea and then spoke with House Speaker Paul Ryan, “according to three people familiar with the meeting”. Trump also promoted the initiative on Twitter:

Ryan offered little reaction to Trump’s approach, the sources said, and “senior Capitol Hill officials said it was an “unlikely prospect”.

Last week Congress, with the Trump Administration offering no budget after 14 months in office, approved $1.3 trillion in funding through September for the military and domestic programs. The bill included only $1.6 billion of the $25 billion sought by Trump for The Wall, and even the limited amount came with restrictions on its disbursement.

Trump threatened on Friday morning to veto the measure, but relented under pressure from legislators and his staff. Hours later, he signed the bill but complained to reporters and on Twitter:

Over the weekend, while at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Trump accepted the spending package but began telling aides that the Pentagon can now afford — with its $700 billion — to pay for the “historic” Wall.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders deflected a question on Tuesday: “I can’t get into the specifics of that at this point, but I can tell you that the continuation of building the wall is ongoing and we’re going to continue moving forward in that process.”

Congress would have to approve any reallocation of Pentagon funds for The Wall.

The Pentagon has plenty of money, but reprogramming it for a wall would require votes in Congress that the president does not seem to have. Taking money from the current 2018 budget for the wall would require an act of Congress, said a senior Pentagon official.

To find the money in the 2019 defense budget, Trump would have to submit a budget amendment that would still require 60 votes in the Senate, the official said.

Democrats in Congress would probably chafe at military spending going to the construction of a border wall, and military officials may also blanch, White House advisers said. Both Republicans and Democrats indicated on Tuesday that they will oppose any diversion of funds for the barrier.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said:

First Mexico was supposed to pay for it, then U.S. taxpayers, and now our men and women in uniform? This would be a blatant misuse of military funds and tied up in court for years. [Defense] Secretary Mattis ought not bother and instead use the money to help our troops, rather than advance the president’s political fantasies.

White House Investigating $500 Million in Loans to Kushner Companies

The White House is investigating whether $500 million in loans that to Kushner Companies constituted ethical or criminal violations.

David Apol, the Office of Government Ethics’s Acting Director, confirmed the inquiry in a letter last week. He wrote that the White House counsel’s office said it is considering whether “additional procedures are necessary to avoid violations in the future”.

Democrat Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi asked Apol about a New York Times article last month that Kushner Companies accepted $184 million in loans from Apollo Global Management and $325 million from Citigroup last year, following meetings between Donald Trump’s son-in-law and White House advisor Jared Kushner and officials from the two firms.

US media reported that both companies subsequently benefited from regulatory decisions of the Trump Administration.

Kushner’s attorney Abbe Lowell, maintained, “The White House counsel concluded there were no issues involving Jared”.

Lowell denied any improprieties: “[Kushner] was not involved with his former company after he entered government service; the transactions in question came after that; he had nothing to do with those transactions; the transactions had nothing to do with any of his meetings in the White House”.

Kushner’s father Charles also met with the Qatari Finance Minister in April 2017 seeking finance for a troubled New York City building project on which Kushner Companies must make a $1.9 billion mortgage payment in early 2019.