Posted tagged ‘U.S. Congress’

Democrats, FBI Collaborated on Trump Smear

June 25, 2017

Democrats, FBI Collaborated on Trump Smear, Power LineJohn Hinderaker, June 25, 2017

Why was the FBI meddling in a U.S. presidential election? Partisan interference in the election by public agencies like the FBI and major news sources like NBC are far more worrisome than anything Russians allegedly might do from afar.

The FBI, too, is trying to stiff Congress’s investigation into the fake dossier:

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The New York Post has an explosive report on the infamous “dossier” that tried to smear Donald Trump in order to swing the presidential election to Hillary Clinton. The source of the dossier is a Democratic Party opposition research firm called Fusion GPS:

The Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month threatened to subpoena the firm, Fusion GPS, after it refused to answer questions and provide records to the panel identifying who financed the error-ridden dossier, which was circulated during the election and has sparked much of the Russia scandal now engulfing the White House.
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Fusion GPS was on the payroll of an unidentified Democratic ally of Clinton when it hired a long-retired British spy to dig up dirt on Trump. In 2012, Democrats hired Fusion GPS to uncover dirt on GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. And in 2015, Democrat ally Planned Parenthood retained Fusion GPS to investigate pro-life activists protesting the abortion group.

No surprise there. What is shocking is the FBI’s apparent involvement in the effort to smear Trump with false rumors:

The FBI received a copy of the Democrat-funded dossier in August, during the heat of the campaign, and is said to have contracted in October to pay Steele $50,000 to help corroborate the dirt on Trump — a relationship that “raises substantial questions about the independence” of the bureau in investigating Trump, warned Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

It raises more questions than that. Why was the FBI meddling in a U.S. presidential election? Partisan interference in the election by public agencies like the FBI and major news sources like NBC are far more worrisome than anything Russians allegedly might do from afar.

The FBI, too, is trying to stiff Congress’s investigation into the fake dossier:

Senate investigators are demanding to see records of communications between Fusion GPS and the FBI and the Justice Department, including any contacts with former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, now under congressional investigation for possibly obstructing the Hillary Clinton email probe, and deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, who is under investigation by the Senate and the Justice inspector general for failing to recuse himself despite financial and political connections to the Clinton campaign through his Democrat activist wife. Senate investigators have singled out McCabe as the FBI official who negotiated with Steele.

Like Fusion GPS, the FBI has failed to cooperate with congressional investigators seeking documents.

It appears that the Democratic Party has successfully corrupted the FBI as well as the CIA.

Trump signs VA reform bill, following through on campaign promise

June 23, 2017

Trump signs VA reform bill, following through on campaign promise, Fox NewsBarnini Chakraborty, June 23, 2017

President Trump on Friday signed a bill that would protect whistleblowers while making it easier to fire employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act passed by Congress this week streamlines the process to remove, demote, or suspend VA employees for poor performance or misconduct. In addition, it authorizes the VA secretary to recoup any bonuses awarded to employees who have acted improperly.

Under the new law, protections for whistleblowers will be expanded and the VA will be prevented from dismissing an employee who has an open complaint against the department.

The bill helped Trump follow through on a 2016 campaign promise.

The law marks the second time Congress has tried to change the disciplinary process at the VA. In 2014, the Choice Act was passed and tried to cut senior executives’ rights to appeal discipline to the Merit Systems Protection Board. However, a court ruled that it was unconstitutional and violated the Constitution’s appointments clause.

Ahead of the signing, Concerned Veterans for America, a conservative advocacy group, hailed the legislation as a positive step forward in a “new era of accountability, customer focus, and integrity at the department.”

Congress Seeks Embargo on Iran Airline Linked to Terrorism as Tehran Targets U.S. Forces

June 15, 2017

Congress Seeks Embargo on Iran Airline Linked to Terrorism as Tehran Targets U.S. Forces, Washington Free Beacon, June 15, 2017

An airplane of Mahan Air sits at the tarmac / Getty Images

The legislation would grant the Department of Homeland Security increased power to boost security at U.S. airports that host flights arriving from countries where Mahan operates. It also instructs the Trump administration to prepare reports outlining every airport where a Mahan-operated flight has landed.

At this point, the deal between Boeing and Iran remains on track, though that could change if the Trump administration decides to block licenses that would permit the U.S. company to engage in business with Tehran.

Iran has already threatened to take action against the United States if Congress approves the new package of sanctions. This includes leveling its own sanctions on American entities.

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Congress is seeking new authorities that would enable it to expose and crack down on an Iranian state-controlled commercial airline known for transporting weapons and terrorist fighters to hotspots such as Syria, where Iranian-backed forces have begun launching direct attacks on U.S. forces in the country, according to new legislation obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Congressional efforts to expose Iran’s illicit terror networks more forcefully come as U.S. and European air carriers such as Boeing and AirBus move forward with multi-billion dollar deals to provide the Islamic Republic with a fleet of new airplanes, which lawmakers suspect Iran will use to amplify its terror operations.

The new sanction legislation targets Iran’s Mahan Airlines, which operates commercial flights across the globe while transporting militants and weapons to fighters in Syria, Yemen, and other regional hotspots.

Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) is spearheading an amendment to a larger Iran sanctions bill that would increase security at U.S. airports and help expose Mahan’s use of commercial flights to ferry weapons abroad, according to a copy of the measure obtained by the Free Beacon.

The legislation would grant the Department of Homeland Security increased power to boost security at U.S. airports that host flights arriving from countries where Mahan operates. It also instructs the Trump administration to prepare reports outlining every airport where a Mahan-operated flight has landed.

Mahan’s “very presence is a security risk to Americans flying in and out of airports where a Mahan aircraft may land,” Cornyn said earlier this week on the Senate floor.

The amendment, if passed, could complicate efforts by Boeing and others to move forward with multi-billion dollar deals with Iran, a portion of which would likely benefit Mahan.

The State and Homeland Security departments declined to comment on the new sanctions when asked by the Free Beacon, citing a policy of not discussing pending legislation.

The renewed focus on Mahan and Iran’s use of commercial airlines to support terror activities comes as the Islamic Republic amps up operations in Syria directly targeting U.S. forces, a new front that has cast a spotlight on the growing proxy war between Iran and the United States in the region.

An Iranian drone recently attacked U.S. forces in Syria, and Hezbollah—an Iranian-backed terror organization—also has taken steps to counter American forces in the region.

A crackdown on Mahan could indicate that Congress is more seriously eyeing ways to thwart Iran’s mainly unchecked terror pipeline in the region.

Iranian officials have separately expressed anger over Congress’s efforts to impose new sanctions, threatening to walk away from the landmark nuclear deal if the United States does not uphold its end of the bargain.

At this point, the deal between Boeing and Iran remains on track, though that could change if the Trump administration decides to block licenses that would permit the U.S. company to engage in business with Tehran.

Iran has already threatened to take action against the United States if Congress approves the new package of sanctions. This includes leveling its own sanctions on American entities.

“Today, 23 American people and firms are in the list of our sanctions as a reciprocal move and we will take such measures in the future too,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was quoted as saying this week in comments that also took aim at Trump.

Iranian officials have also accused the United States under Trump of breaching its end of the nuclear deal, though officials did not outline what the specific violations are.

“Implementation of the nuclear deal undertakings by the U.S. has not been acceptable to Iran so far and the U.S. should comply with its undertakings,” Reza Najafi, Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Organization, or IAEA, said this week during a meeting with the group in Vienna.

Congressional Hearings and Witch-Hunts

June 13, 2017

Congressional Hearings and Witch-Hunts, Front Page MagazineBruce Thornton, June 13, 2017

America’s longest running soap opera is not General Hospital. It’s the Congressional Hearing, usually a venue for pontificating, show-boating, histrionics, preening for the cameras, insulting political enemies, and accomplishing little of value. Meanwhile the real work of the Republic either gets neglected or proceeds in silence at a glacial pace.

James Comey was the star of last week’s latest episode of the eternal DC soap. The one-time FBI director stayed true to his character, preening morally, striking Boy Scout poses, indulging faux-folksy interjections like “Lordy,” pretending to be sober and judicious, but all the while revealing the instincts of a bureaucratic cartel sicaria. He was obviously thirsting for revenge against the hated DC outsider and “liar” who unceremoniously fired him, so much so that he admitted to cowardice on multiple occasions, from failing to immediately confront Trump over his supposed sinister “direction” (Comey’s translation of Trump’s “hope”) that Mike Flynn get let off the hook; to his groveling obedience to AG Loretta Lynch’s politicized, justice-obstructing order to call the investigation into Hillary Clinton a “matter.” He displayed a brazen arrogance in admitting to leaking a memo, written in his professional capacity, to the New York Times through a cut-out, perhaps one of numerous other leaks emanating from this self-proclaimed pillar of professional rectitude even before he was fired.

So we got a few more details about a man we already knew was a publicity hound and power -hungry operator. But that portrait was painted back in July of last year, when Comey publicly laid out the predicates for an indictment of Hillary Clinton, then usurped the authority of the AG to let Hillary (and Loretta “Tarmac” Lynch) off the hook based on a legally irrelevant consideration of “intent.” The only thing interesting last week was watching how far Comey would debase himself to square the many duplicitous circles he had spun over the last few years.

Great fun for political junkies, but what useful purpose will be served by that spectacle? The media are happy, since they get free programming and more chum for their talking heads. They’re celebrating the 19 million viewers who supposedly tuned in, though that sum represents a little more than 10% of registered voters. Normal citizens were working their jobs and tending to their lives. From their perspective, the drama inside the Beltway cocoon is bureaucratic white noise. If they think about it at all, it’s to wonder whether the guilty leakers will be hunted down and punished, or just be “investigated” for months and months and then, like Hillary, given a pass. And Hillary is just one of numerous miscreants that need exposing and punishing for their corruption of the public trust in order to serve their political preferences or careerist ambitions.

Don’t hold your breath. More likely we’ll see a repeat of the 2003 Valery Plame inquisition, that ginned-up crisis about the illegal “exposure” of an alleged “covert” CIA agent. By the time it was all finished, Comey’s buddy Patrick Fitzgerald who, despite knowing the true identity of the leaker, like some low-rent Javert for three years hounded White House staffers until Lewis “Scooter” Libby was questionably convicted of four crimes. So fat chance the biggest offender of all, Hillary Clinton, will ever answer for putting national security at risk and treating the State Department like an ATM. Some small-fry staffers might get caught in the net, but the whales will just swim right through.

What’s really maddening, though, is that we’re into the second year of Trump’s critics still being infuriated by his style, even as they ignore or downplay the much grosser offenses of numerous Democrats. Much of the whole “Russia collusion” fantasy has been generated by Trump’s refusal to abide by the media and establishment-created protocols presidents are supposed to follow. Republican Trump critics are just as bad, still not figuring out that their fealty to exalted “protocols” and good taste are just what energized ordinary citizens, those folks grown sick of bipartisan elites who seemed to have more in common with each other than with the people they’re supposed to represent.

So, for example, we hear once again from the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan––who seems bent on spending the rest of her career playing Margaret Dumont to Trump’s Groucho Marx––whining about Trump’s asking Comey for “loyalty.” “Presidents don’t lean on FBI chiefs in this way,” Noonan sniffed. “It is at odds with traditional boundaries, understandings and protocols.” Really? Sez who? LBJ probably applied worse pressure than that before lunch every day. And few presidents “leaned on” J. Edgar Hoover only because the G-man had some pretty thick files on them.

As for “traditional boundaries, understandings and protocols,” where do they come from? Andrew Jackson? Political decorum and comity are good things, but in democratic politics they usually serve as gate-keepers separating the elites from their clients. They also are camouflage for disguising collusion or incompetence or inaction. They’re just the air-freshener for the political sausage factory. What matters is getting the sausage made.

But the only rule-book that matters is the Constitution. And it says a president can fire any executive employee, including the head of the FBI, any way he wants and for any reason he sees fit. The FBI is a federal agency, not a separate arm of the government, answerable to the Chief Executive, who, unlike Comey or Lynch, is directly answerable to the sovereign people. If they’re unhappy with the president’s tweets or brashness or actions, they’ll let him and his party know at the ballot box.

And that’s what’s objectionable about these opera-buffa “hearings.” The media and politicians are obsessing over superficial issues of presidential style, progressive fake news, and he-said-he-said squabbles, while the real work that needs to get done is being neglected. And Obama left behind some huge messes that Trump promised to clean up. We don’t need “hearings” about Russian interference in the election. That’s a dog-bites-man story. Just shoot the dog by increasing cyber-security, and stop talking about it. We don’t need hearings about alleged “Russian collusion” with the Trump campaign. Just shut up, investigate, and if necessary charge, prosecute, and convict the guilty. Ditto with the federal agencies leaking like a colander, the only substantive story in the Trump-and-Comey puppet show.

All of us need to get focused and hold the politicians’ feet to the fire and to make them deliver the changes necessary for restoring economic growth, reforming our broken health-care system, and straightening out our Kafkaesque tax code. These are hard problems with harder solutions, but they won’t get fixed if Congress is off mugging for television cameras or taking the whole month of August off.

Many Congressmen assure us that they are hard at work below the media’s radar. I hope that’s true, because if the Republicans and Trump fail to deliver on his promises with substantial change, we might see in our country a reprise of what just happened in England’s snap election, where a hard-left buffoon perhaps fatally wounded the Tories’ government. Trump promised to win so much the people will get sick of winning. He’d better make it happen, or else the people who put him in office will get sick of him. And our own country has plenty of hard-left buffoons itching to take his place.

There’s Nothing About Comey

June 8, 2017

There’s Nothing About Comey, Front Page Magazine, Daniel Greenfield, June 8, 2017

The FBI, as Comey lays out in a tedious opening that he knows his Democrat admirers will skip over to get to the juicy Trump stuff, was conducting a “counterintelligence investigation” not a criminal investigation. So there was no crime. Nor was the FBI investigating Trump. Nor is Trump being accused of obstructing an FBI investigation. 

All those carefully documented memos, the painstaking labor, amount to absolutely nothing.

But that’s because there was no crime to begin with. The rest is innuendo. The drip drop of a scandal without one ever materializing. Comey’s testimony will be another drop from that leaky faucet. Its only substance is theatrical. Detailed documentation creates the appearance of wrongdoing. Constant hearings maintain the illusion that something is being uncovered. Even when nothing is.

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Never has one man broken more leftist hearts than James Brien Comey Jr.

The 6’8 former FBI director is once again the object of the left’s adoration. “A Beltway dreamboat, handsome as a movie star,” Salon gushes. “Our handsome young FBI director,” Gizmodo flutters its eyelashes. “How tall is James Comey? Tall. Like, really tall,” the Boston Globe coos. 

Now the Beltway dreamboat will be appearing live and in person in the Senate. It’s the biggest show in a big government town. Teenage girls hunting for Justin Bieber tickets have nothing on the media frenzy.

“The Comey Testimony: When, Where and How to Follow,” the New York Times breathlessly posts. As if it’s the World Series instead of awkward exchanges between a resentful lifer government man, Senate Democrats trying to prove that President Trump didn’t win the election and the moon landing was faked, and Senate Republicans trying to get on with the business of running the country.

And the left shouldn’t get too caught up in its new romance with James Comey. Not when his on and off again relationship with the media is Washington’s biggest soap opera.  Comey saved Hillary. Then he got the blame for costing her the election. He was a hero for supposedly investigating Trump. Then his Hillary testimony led to media outrage.  Trump fired him and he became a hero again.

The Washington Post went from “James Comey just stepped in it, big time” to “James Comey, is this man bothering you?”, “20 questions senators should ask James Comey” and “James Comey’s written testimony inspired this playlist” in one month.  Tomorrow it might be, “James Comey, we baked this cake for you.” Or it might be, “James Comey, we hate you and never want to see you again.”

Because James Comey has nothing except resentment at losing a cushy job he wasn’t very good at.

Comey’s career was doomed when he became a player in Democrat conspiracy theories. First, the left blamed him for Hillary’s defeat. Then it enlisted him as its champion to prove the election was hacked.

And the Beltway dreamboat can’t deliver. The curtain rises. The spotlight comes down. And Comey coughs out his carefully worded memos that describe in detail the furniture of the Oval Office.

No really.

“When the door by the grandfather clock closed… Reince Priebus leaned in through the door by the grandfather clock… I then got up and left out the door by the grandfather clock.”

Slate gushes, “James Comey’s Senate Testimony Is a Pulpy, Literary Treat.” If you really like grandfather clocks. Why write about grandfather clocks? Because Comey doesn’t have anything else to write about.

There’s no “there”, there.

The FBI, as Comey lays out in a tedious opening that he knows his Democrat admirers will skip over to get to the juicy Trump stuff, was conducting a “counterintelligence investigation” not a criminal investigation. So there was no crime. Nor was the FBI investigating Trump. Nor is Trump being accused of obstructing an FBI investigation.

All those carefully documented memos, the painstaking labor, amount to absolutely nothing.

But that’s because there was no crime to begin with. The rest is innuendo. The drip drop of a scandal without one ever materializing. Comey’s testimony will be another drop from that leaky faucet. Its only substance is theatrical. Detailed documentation creates the appearance of wrongdoing. Constant hearings maintain the illusion that something is being uncovered. Even when nothing is.

The better question is why do the memos even exist?

The left would like to believe that Comey was gathering evidence on President Trump. But they don’t contain anything incriminating about him. Instead Comey was trying to preemptively protect himself. To understand that is to understand who Comey is and why he got into this mess.

Never has one man broken more leftist hearts than James Brien Comey Jr.

The 6’8 former FBI director is once again the object of the left’s adoration. “A Beltway dreamboat, handsome as a movie star,” Salon gushes. “Our handsome young FBI director,” Gizmodo flutters its eyelashes. “How tall is James Comey? Tall. Like, really tall,” the Boston Globe coos.

Now the Beltway dreamboat will be appearing live and in person in the Senate. It’s the biggest show in a big government town. Teenage girls hunting for Justin Bieber tickets have nothing on the media frenzy.

“The Comey Testimony: When, Where and How to Follow,” the New York Times breathlessly posts. As if it’s the World Series instead of awkward exchanges between a resentful lifer government man, Senate Democrats trying to prove that President Trump didn’t win the election and the moon landing was faked, and Senate Republicans trying to get on with the business of running the country.

And the left shouldn’t get too caught up in its new romance with James Comey. Not when his on and off again relationship with the media is Washington’s biggest soap opera.  Comey saved Hillary. Then he got the blame for costing her the election. He was a hero for supposedly investigating Trump. Then his Hillary testimony led to media outrage.  Trump fired him and he became a hero again.

The Washington Post went from “James Comey just stepped in it, big time” to “James Comey, is this man bothering you?”, “20 questions senators should ask James Comey” and “James Comey’s written testimony inspired this playlist” in one month.  Tomorrow it might be, “James Comey, we baked this cake for you.” Or it might be, “James Comey, we hate you and never want to see you again.”

Because James Comey has nothing except resentment at losing a cushy job he wasn’t very good at.

Comey’s career was doomed when he became a player in Democrat conspiracy theories. First, the left blamed him for Hillary’s defeat. Then it enlisted him as its champion to prove the election was hacked.

And the Beltway dreamboat can’t deliver. The curtain rises. The spotlight comes down. And Comey coughs out his carefully worded memos that describe in detail the furniture of the Oval Office.

No really.

“When the door by the grandfather clock closed… Reince Priebus leaned in through the door by the grandfather clock… I then got up and left out the door by the grandfather clock.”

Slate gushes, “James Comey’s Senate Testimony Is a Pulpy, Literary Treat.” If you really like grandfather clocks. Why write about grandfather clocks? Because Comey doesn’t have anything else to write about.

There’s no “there”, there.

The FBI, as Comey lays out in a tedious opening that he knows his Democrat admirers will skip over to get to the juicy Trump stuff, was conducting a “counterintelligence investigation” not a criminal investigation. So there was no crime. Nor was the FBI investigating Trump. Nor is Trump being accused of obstructing an FBI investigation.

All those carefully documented memos, the painstaking labor, amount to absolutely nothing.

But that’s because there was no crime to begin with. The rest is innuendo. The drip drop of a scandal without one ever materializing. Comey’s testimony will be another drop from that leaky faucet. Its only substance is theatrical. Detailed documentation creates the appearance of wrongdoing. Constant hearings maintain the illusion that something is being uncovered. Even when nothing is.

The better question is why do the memos even exist?

The left would like to believe that Comey was gathering evidence on President Trump. But they don’t contain anything incriminating about him. Instead Comey was trying to preemptively protect himself. To understand that is to understand who Comey is and why he got into this mess.

VA secretary says agency ‘clearly broken,’ urges action by Congress

May 31, 2017

VA secretary says agency ‘clearly broken,’ urges action by Congress, Washington TimesS.A. Miller, May 31, 2017

In this photo taken May 11, 2017, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Shulkin is warning the VA is “still in critical condition” despite efforts to reduce wait times for medical appointments and expand care.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said Wednesday that the agency is “still in critical condition” with patients waiting too long for services and a bureaucracy unable to fire poorly performing employees.

Mr. Shulkin, the only holdover from the Obama administration in President Trump’s Cabinet, urged Congress to give the agency more power to discipline employees and expand the Veterans Choice program that allows vets to get treatment from private-sector doctors and hospitals.

Current rules prevent the VA from suspending or firing employees in a timely manner, including a recent case where it took more than a month to fire a psychiatrist caught watching pornography on his iPad while seeing a veteran.

“Our accountability process are clearly broken,” said Mr. Shulkin, a physician.

He said that despite limitation in the law, the VA has moved to purge executives and others for poor performance and mismanagement.

The agency recently fired the medical director and other executives in the D.C. facility and the medical director and three other executive in the Shreveport, Louisiana, facility.

A pattern of negligent and mistreatment at VA hospitals came to light in 2014. A report by CNN found that at least 40 veterans died while on long waiting lists for care at a facility in Phoenix.

More problems emerged at facilities across the country, including secret waiting lists that were kept hidden by executives in order to collect bonus pay.

The Veterans Choice Program was created in response. The program, however, was opposed by Democrats who warned it was an attempt to privatize the VA.

Mr. Trump last month signed into law a bill that extended the program.

Mr. Shulkin also credited the president with taking executive action to create a VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, which reports directly to the secretary.

“But that isn’t enough,” Mr. Shulkin said. “We need new accountability legislation and we need that now.”

The House passed a bill to make it easier to fire bad VA employees. The Senate has yet to act.

Byron York: While other controversies rage, work on border wall moves forward

May 30, 2017

Byron York: While other controversies rage, work on border wall moves forward, Washington Examiner, May 29, 2017

(Please see also, FULL MEASURE: May 28, 2017 – Price of Power on how Congress “works.”  — DM)

New revelations come almost by the minute in the Trump-Russia affair. The White House moves into full-defense mode. The Trump agenda stalls on Capitol Hill.

A reasonable observer might conclude that is all that is happening in the Trump administration. But even as those troubles fill news sites and cable TV, administration officials are quietly moving ahead on one of the president’s top campaign promises: the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Although it hasn’t received much attention relative to the president’s many problems, extensive planning for the wall is under way, officials are evaluating specific proposals, sites are being studied, and yes, there is money available to get going.

The work is being done under President Trump’s executive order of Jan. 25, which declared the administration’s policy to “secure the southern border of the United States through the immediate construction of a physical wall …” The order went on to set a high standard of effectiveness: “the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States” along the border. Finally, the order cited an existing law, the Secure Fence Act, which in 2006 called for the construction of “at least two layers of reinforced fencing” and “additional physical barriers” on up to 700 miles of the 1,954-mile border.

“The executive order calls on the authority in the Secure Fence Act for us to begin immediately,” said a senior administration official who recently provided an extensive update on the state of the wall project. In March, U.S. Customs and Border Protection sent out a request for proposals for companies to bid on the construction of prototypes — not little models to sit on someone’s desk, but full-scale sections of proposed wall designs that will be put in place on the border. So far, Border Protection has received more than 100 proposals.

“We are evaluating what started out as a solicitation to industry and request for proposals — 18 to 30 feet high, concrete, impenetrable, hard-to-scale, the correct aesthetics,” the official said. “We’ve tried to capture the intent [of the executive order] in the requests for proposals, and those proposals are being evaluated now.”

There are some important points to remember before going any further. First, there is no intention to build a wall to stretch the entire border, from San Diego, Calif., to Brownsville, Texas. In his campaign, the president made clear that the wall need not cover every mile of the border. Certainly, no expert who supports more barriers at the border believes it should, either.

And the wall does not always mean a wall. The Jan. 25 executive order defined “wall” as “a contiguous, physical wall or other similarly secure, contiguous and impassable physical barrier.” Planners say that in practice, that will certainly mean extensive areas with an actual wall. But other areas might have the type of fencing outlined in the Secure Fence Act, or some other barrier yet to be designed.

And that leads to a third point: The border barrier will not look the same at all points along the border. The terrain of the border is different — some parts are so imposing they don’t need a barrier at all — and officials plan to design walls and barriers that fit each area, rather than one long, unchanging structure.

Right now, officials are studying how many “buildable miles” will need a barrier. Whatever the precise number, it will be big. In 2015, the Department of Homeland Security told Congress that, of the 1,954 miles of border, 1,300 miles, or 66.5 percent, have no fencing or barriers at all; 299.8 miles, or 15.3 percent, have vehicle fence; and 316.6 miles, or 16.2 percent, have pedestrian fence. Only 36.3 miles, or 2 percent, have the kind of double-layer fencing required by the Secure Fence Act. (The law was passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush, but neither Bush nor Congress really wanted to build the fence. So they didn’t.)

“We’ve asked the nine sectors on the Southwest border, if you have to meet the standards in the executive order and the Secure Fence Act, where is it that barriers are required to complete the task?” said the senior administration official. “We’ve then evaluated those areas where the traffic [of illegal border-crossers] is highest.” Planners are considering those factors in light of the executive order’s “prevent all entries” standard — administration officials are taking that edict very seriously — to come up with areas in which a wall would be the best solution, or where some other type of physical barrier would do the job better.

At the moment, planners believe that about 700 “buildable miles” of the border will require a wall or other barrier. That just happens to be about the same amount called for in the Secure Fence Act.

Does the government have that much land available? The answer is mostly yes. Remember, from the numbers cited above, that there are more than 650 miles along the border with something on them — vehicle fence, simple pedestrian fence, whatever. That means the government has already gone through the land acquisition and approval process required to erect a barrier. “It’s federal property now because we’ve either condemned it or purchased it,” said the official.

There’s no doubt that hundreds of miles of truly impenetrable barriers would have a huge effect on illegal border crossings. Talk to some experts who favor tougher border enforcement, and they will say that even as few as 100 well-chosen miles of barrier would make a difference.

In any event, there is a significant amount of border land that is already in government hands. “West of El Paso, a lot of the land is public,” the official noted, while “as you go further east from El Paso towards Brownsville, a lot of that land is private.” Going through the process of condemning or buying land — with all the legal and financial issues involved — will depend “on how we choose the priorities.”

Once planners decide where to build, there will then be the question of what to build. If the decision is to build a wall, then the question is: a wall of what? Planners have decided that concrete will definitely be involved, even though it hasn’t played much of a role in earlier barriers. Why concrete? “It’s an interpretation of the vision,” the senior administration official explained. By “vision,” he meant it is a way to make Trump’s oft-repeated promise of a “big, beautiful wall” a reality. Trump didn’t mean a fence.

On the other hand, using concrete presents one obvious problem. Whatever barrier is built, Border Protection agents on the U.S. side need to be able to see through it. That’s always been a requirement with earlier barriers. So now, officials are looking for creative ideas for a wall that will still allow them full sight of the Mexican side.

That touches on the most important consideration for planners. A wall isn’t just a wall. It is a system — a “smart wall,” as they call it. It involves building a barrier with the monitoring technology to allow U.S. officials to be aware of people approaching; to be able to track them at all times; to have roads to move people around; the facilities to deal with the people who are apprehended; and more. “It’s not just a barrier,” noted the official. (Last year, with the Obama administration still in office, a number of Border Protection officials traveled to Israel to study that country’s highly effective barriers; they came home big believers in a smart wall.)

At this point, it’s impossible to say what building a smart wall will cost, because officials haven’t yet decided on a plan. But how much money does the administration have to get started now? Begin with money that was already to available to the Department of Homeland Security.

“Congress gave us a re-programming for money we were planning to do other things with — mostly technology — to get us through this request for proposals and to get the prototypes underway immediately,” the senior administration official said. “That has happened already. We found $20 million to get that effort underway.”

“Then, the 2017 budget resolution gives us substantial money to continue doing real estate and environmental planning and design, and then replace some fencing,” he continued. “That’s in the neighborhood of $900 million.”

“You won’t get a lot of new fence for that,” the official conceded. “You’ll get some upgrades. But you’ll get some behind-the-scenes work underway — engineering, design, real estate acquisition, title searches, the kinds of things that have to happen to make it work.”

That is a start. Republicans on the Hill argue that they got as much money in the recent spending bill as they could for the project, given that they had to work with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown and fund the government through Sept. 30. “We weren’t going to get anything passed that said, quote-unquote, ‘wall,'” noted one GOP staffer.

The next funding hurdle will come when Congress considers spending for 2018. Most House and Senate Democrats appear determined to stop a border barrier. They say it will be expensive and ineffective, while some Republicans believe Democrats oppose the wall mainly because they fear it will work.

After the recent spending bill passed, some opponents of the wall declared the project dead. (Sample headline: Vanity Fair’s “How Trump’s Wall Failure Will Forever Doom His Presidency.”) But any victory dance right now is premature. Yes, it’s certainly possible the wall won’t be built. But it’s also possible it will be built, or that significant parts of it will be built. The work is already under way.