Grind for May 20th, 2019
“What’s right is what’s left if you do everything else wrong.”
– Robin Williams
Trump Administration announces new border wall plan directly before court challenge
If you thought President Trump had given up on the border wall, think again.
This week, the Administration unveiled a plan that pulls $2.5 billion from the Defense and Justice Departments and $600 million from the Treasury Department to pay for border wall construction.
“How you will see this materialize in the next 6 months is that about 63 additional new miles of wall will come online,” said Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan. “So about half a mile a day will be produced.”
The plan will be challenged in court later this week by opponents who insist Trump’s financing methods are unconstitutional and illegal.
But Trump has no other choice considering lawmakers’ ongoing refusal to provide funding for the border wall.
Last year, the stalemate initiated a 35-day partial government shutdown.
The government was re-opened with a spending package that included $1.4 billion to build a mere 55 miles of barrier fence (concrete walls were not permitted). Trump had asked for $5.6 billion.
In February, Trump declared a national emergency at the border that allowed the Pentagon to move billions of dollars towards the wall.
Last week, Shanahan claimed the Pentagon had collected enough money to build 256 miles of border wall.
In the meantime, little progress has been made on existing projects at the border
A $789 million contract with SLSCO Ltd. in Texas has been stalled by a challenge in the US Court of Federal Claims.
A construction project awarded to Yuma, AZ last month was immediately challenged by the Government Accountability Office and scrapped.
As the Trump Administration continues to move money around in preparation of awarding new construction contracts, Democratic lawmakers have proposed a bill that would decrease the amount of money the military can transfer between accounts from $9.5 billion to $1.5 billion.
In a separate challenge, a federal judge in California will soon hear a request by the Sierra Club to prevent Trump from using $7 billion in taxpayer dollars for the wall.
Trump declares national emergency to block Chinese spying
President Trump on Wednesday declared a national emergency and signed an executive order banning US companies from using any communications techn produced by ‘foreign adversaries.’
The long-awaited ban is clearly aimed at Chinese tech companies Huawei and ZTE.
“Foreign adversaries are increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in information and communications technology and services…in order to commit malicious cyber-enabled actions, including economic and industrial espionage against the United States and its people,” wrote Trump. The “unrestricted acquisition or use” of Chinese communications technology “constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”
Trump’s chief concern is that companies like Huawei will use their tech to share information with Beijing. If we use Chinese tech in our 5G networks, we risk giving Beijing access to everything from smart speakers to self-driving cars.
The executive order gives the Commerce Department five months to define which entities pose a national security risk. The department has already added Huawei to the Bureau of Industry and Security Entity List, meaning US companies must obtain a license in order to sell or transfer any technology to Huawei.
In August 2018, Trump signed a bill blocking the US government from using any equipment produced by Huawei or ZTE. In December, US prosecutors charged Huawei’s chief financial officer with bank and wire fraud related to alleged violations of US sanctions on Iran.
In January, prosecutors accused Huawei of attempting to steal trade secrets from T-Mobile in Washington state. Last week, the FCC voted to ban China Mobile Ltd. from the US market over national security concerns.
The executive order is also a signal to European allies that the US is serious about its decision to exclude Chinese companies from its 5G network. While Japan, Australia, and New Zealand have responded to Trump’s warnings, Canada, Britain and Germany remain unconvinced.
GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know…There is a fruit by the name of Black Sapote or “chocolate pudding fruit” which tastes like chocolate pudding and is actually low fat and has about “4 times as much vitamin C as an orange”.