A company favored by President Trump, which is the subject of an ongoing Defense Department inspector general review, has been awarded the biggest border wall construction contract yet, valued at $1.275 billion. CEO Tommy Fisher of North Dakota-based Fisher Sand and Gravel pushed his company’s design on conservative news outlets including Fox News, paid $145,000 to lobbyists, donated to Trump’s Republican allies, and invited officials with the US Army Corps of Engineers to view construction of a privately funded wall, report the Arizona Daily Star and Washington Post. Trump reportedly urged Corps officials to award wall contracts to Fisher last year, though its design didn’t meet federal standards. This contract, given to the lowest bidder out of a pool of contractors, covers 42 miles of wall in segments near Tucson.
Fisher was also awarded a $400 million contract to build 31 miles of wall near Tucson in December. The Defense Department's inspector general later launched an audit in response to a request from Congress, per CNN. House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson said there were "concerns about the possibility of inappropriate influence" and specifically mentioned federal procurement laws. In a statement, the Corps says all procurement laws were followed for both awards. The latest, awarded May 6, gives an average cost per mile of $30 million, compared to $20 million for other wall projects in the area, though the Post reports there are "significant engineering complexities." CNN notes Fisher has faced "more than $1 million in fines for environmental and tax violations," though it maintains those issues are resolved. (Read more border wall stories.)