NM Senators welcome investigation into admin’s use of eminent domain for border wall

New Mexico’s U.S. Senators said an internal government watchdog will provide answers about how the Trump administration seized land to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico. Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee blocked an amendment one of those Senators, Tom Udall, introduced to the defense funding bill that would bar Trump from diverting money from military projects to fund the wall. In August, Udall and New Mexico’s other Senator, Martin Heinrich, signed onto a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Dick Durbin of Illinois asking for an investigation into the use of eminent domain to take land for the border wall. All four senators are Democrats. GAO wrote to the four Senators last week saying they would begin the review the Trump administration’s eminent domain efforts. 

“At the current time we anticipate that staff with the required skills will be available to initiate an engagement in about three months,” the GAO official wrote.

$125 million in NM military projects being diverted to fund border wall

Two projects at military bases will see their funding sent to fund the construction of a border wall between the United States and Mexico. In all, the federal government is diverting the funds from 127 military projects totaling $3.6 billion toward the construction of the wall. The U.S. Department of Defense says the diversion will be temporary. The projects in New Mexico that saw their funding eliminated, at least temporarily, are $85 million for an Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) training facility for  at Holloman Air Force Base and $40 million originally slated for an information systems facility at White Sands Missile Range. U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, who represents the area and sits on the House Armed Services Committee, said she was “appalled at the Administration’s decision to divert military construction funds allocated for projects essential to our national defense to build a fiscally irresponsible border wall.”

The military projects in NM that might be cut to fund a border wall

The U.S. Department of Defense listed military construction projects from across the world that could lose funding under a national emergency declaration by President Donald Trump. Included among those are projects at military facilities in New Mexico. Trump’s national emergency declaration would draw funds from the DOD to construct a border wall between the United States and Mexico. Both the U.S. House and Senate—led by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall—voted to disapprove Trump’s national emergency declaration. Trump vetoed Congress’ effort.

Ad of Lujan Grisham smashing ‘Trump’s wall’ goes viral

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham does her own stunts. In high heels, no less. As President Donald Trump delivered the State of the Union address Tuesday night, Lujan Grisham released a never-before-seen political ad on Twitter that shows the diminutive Democrat smashing through walls in high heels while talking about breaking barriers to improve New Mexico. In the ad, the president took a hit, too. “And here’s what I think of Trump’s wall,” Lujan Grisham says at the end of the ad before she shatters drywall that held the president’s portrait.

Poll: Close governor’s race, Johnson in 2nd in Senate race

The race for New Mexico governor is tight, while the incumbent Democratic U.S. senator holds a sizeable lead over his two challengers, according to a new poll from Emerson College. The poll, conducted last week, via calls to landlines and online surveys and released Monday morning, shows Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham with a two point lead over Republican nominee Steve Pearce, 42 percent to 40 percent. The poll shows 18 percent of voters polled are still undecided. The poll is of registered voters. Both candidates are leaving their respective congressional seats to run for governor.

Martinez says she won’t be part of border wall ‘distraction’ with ‘low-level legislators’

Another brick in the wall: Gov. Susana Martinez has clashed with President Donald Trump, but she is not going to stand between her fellow Republican and the “big, beautiful” wall he has promised to build on the border with Mexico. Several Democrats filed a bill to prohibit selling state land to the federal government for the purpose of constructing a wall along New Mexico’s 180-mile southern border. The state owns property along a 22-mile sliver of that boundary. But, except for financial matters, it is up to the governor to place bills on the agenda for this year’s 30-day session. Martinez on Wednesday told El Paso-based KVIA-TV that the Democrats’ bill will not be heard.

Around NM: new Trump nominees, disappearing words (& funding), school lunches and wolves

This weekend, as people across the country marched in support of stronger climate change policy in America, the Trump administration got busy wiping the words “climate change” from more of its websites. On Sunday, the Washington Post reported that the EPA had altered and redirected pages related to climate change, the Clean Power Plan and greenhouse gas emissions. According to the story:
The change was approved by Pruitt, according to an individual familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, to avoid a conflict between the site’s content and the policies the administration is now pursuing. The staffer described the process of reviewing the site as “a work in progress, but we can’t have information which contradicts the actions we have taken in the last two months,” adding that Pruitt’s aides had “found a number of instances of that so far” while surveying the site. This year NM Political Report has repeatedly linked to the EPA’s own resources when covering changes under Pruitt.

Around NM: ConocoPhillips, border wall lawsuit, NM emerges from Article 7 restrictions and more

I’ve been reporting on environment issues for almost 15 years, and during most of that time, it hasn’t exactly been a breaking news beat. There are disasters like wildfires or the Gold King Mine spill. But for the most part, covering issues like drought, climate change and energy policy doesn’t usually involve a race to deadline. It seems like that’s been changing lately, however. Part of that change is due to the Trump administration.

The cost of Trump’s wall compared to the programs he’s proposing to cut

The fiscal 2018 price for President Trump’s border wall is in: $2.6 billion. That’s a cost to U.S. taxpayers, not a cost many people any longer think will be picked up by the Mexican government. As first installments go, it’s a pretty big number. Indeed, its size can be appreciated in one powerful way by setting it against some of the many budget cuts Trump proposed this week. One year of spending on a border wall is the equal of, well, the federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting plus the $231 million given to the country’s libraries and museums plus the $366 million that goes to legal help for the poor.

Trump invites bids to build wall, cites importance of ‘aesthetics’

President Donald Trump built his campaign on the promise of a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border. Just a month after his inauguration, the Department of Homeland Security announced plans to begin construction. And last Friday, the department took a step to make sure it will look good. In a little-noticed update, the department now says it wants a wall that will be “nominally 30 feet tall,” and, importantly, that bids will be judged on “aesthetics,” as well. The new language, perhaps coincidental but likely not, appears to be a bureaucratic translation of Trump’s oft-repeated promise to build a “beautiful” wall from 30 to 55 feet high.