DHS panel chair asks watchdog to investigate border wall contract

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House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson has asked the Defense Department’s inspector general to investigate a border wall contract awarded this week to a construction company favored by President Donald Trump.

The company in question is Fisher Sand and Gravel, which has been touted by White House officials despite a history of environmental and tax violations. Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, said in a letter dated Wednesday that a series of actions “raise concerns about the possibility of inappropriate influence” on the decision to award the firm a contract.

On Monday, the Pentagon announced that the North Dakota construction firm had been awarded a contract to “design-build border infrastructure along the southern perimeter of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge” in Arizona by the end of 2020. The company had previously been approved by the Pentagon as an eligible vendor for wall projects.

Thompson cited reports of Trump’s interest in Fisher, as well as a recent visit by acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf to a private wall that’s being constructed by the company.

“I am requesting that you review the award of this contract to ensure that the bid submitted by Fisher Sand and Gravel Co. met the solicitation standards and that USACE made the award in accordance with federal procurement law and regulations,” Thompson wrote, referring to the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Defense Department inspector general spokeswoman Dwrena Allen said the office is reviewing the request.

Monday’s announcement was the first government contract to Fisher to build part of the administration-funded border barrier, which has formed a centerpiece of Trump’s platform. News of Fisher’s contract with the Army Corps of Engineers was also tweeted on Monday by Brian Kolfage, the founder of the private group that’s building barriers on the US-Mexico border with Fisher.