President Donald Trump, in his push to make good on his promise to supporters by Election Day, has told officials he will pardon them should they break any laws in attempting to finish construction on the wall at the US-Mexico border, The Washington Post reported, citing current and former officials involved with the project.
Trump has instructed aides to speed up the process of building the wall, directing them to rush through billions of dollars' worth of construction contracts, blow past environmental regulations and to "take the land" necessary by eminent domain, the Post reported Tuesday.
"Don't worry, I'll pardon you," Trump has told officials during meetings at the White House about the wall when aides raised that some of those orders would be illegal, according to the Post. An unnamed White House official told the newspaper that the President is merely joking when he makes such statements about pardons.
The push from Trump to complete his southern border wall -- a signature 2016 presidential campaign promise that helped him win the White House -- comes as he campaigns for reelection in 2020. Chants of "build the wall" were frequently heard at Trump's 2016 campaign rallies, and the President has already made it a talking point in his 2020 campaign despite criticism that the wall -- in areas in Arizona, California and New Mexico -- could harm the environment, prove detrimental to border communities and direct government funding away from other Defense interests.
"Donald Trump promised to secure our border with sane, rational immigration policies to make American communities safer, and that's happening everywhere the wall is being built," Deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley told the Post on Tuesday.
Gidley dismissed internal criticisms of Trump as "just more fabrications by people who hate the fact the status quo, that has crippled this country for decades, is finally changing as President Trump is moving quicker than anyone in history to build the wall, secure the border and enact the very immigration policies the American people voted for."
Trump has also directed the Army Corps and Department of Homeland Security to paint the wall's steel barriers black, the Post reported, citing internal communications it reviewed.
US Customs and Border Patrol said it has constructed over 60 miles of "new" border wall system along the Southwest border since 2017 and expects to complete 450 miles by the end of 2020.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper also has approved an additional 20 miles of 30-foot high barriers, a section of the wall that is being paid for by previously re-purposed Pentagon funds.