Money Go Round

Who Will Really End Up Paying for Trump’s Mexico Wall?

President Trump claims the American taxpayer will be fully reimbursed for the cost of his border wall with Mexico. Aggrieved former Trump contractors might urge caution.

Photo Illustration by Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast

Can we really trust the Trump administration to fully reimburse American taxpayers “100 percent” for the cost of the border wall with Mexico, as the president promises in an ABC News interview tonight?

Never mind that Mexico’s president has adamantly refused to pay a single cent. And never mind the hundreds of people who have accused Trump of not properly compensating them for work they’ve done for him.

Trump’s determination for the wall to be built remains undimmed. With his administration’s unsubstantiated claim yesterday that illegal immigrants cost the president 3 million votes, groundwork was laid for Trump to sign off on the construction of a border wall with Mexico today, a central promise of his campaign.

In a television interview with ABC’s David Muir—Trump’s first since entering the Oval Office—the president reiterated his promise that taxpayer dollars used to kickstart construction will be refunded by the Mexican government.

American taxpayers will be reimbursed “100 percent… at a later date from whatever transaction we make with Mexico,” Trump said in the interview, adding that construction of the wall will begin as soon as a few months from now.

The only thing rivaling the consistency of his campaign rhetoric—We will build a wall! We will replace Obamacare with something “so much better, so much better, so much better!” We will make America great again!—is the billionaire real-estate mogul’s consistent failures to adequately compensate employees and contractors over the years. Even during his campaign, Trump reportedly stiffed a group of pre-teen dancers who performed at one of his rallies.

The border wall could cost up to $20 billion, according to construction industry analysts, its scale so impressive Trump might herald it the “eighth wonder of the world” if he hadn’t already used that line when opening the Trump Taj Mahal back in 1990. (The $1 billion Atlantic City gambling resort was in bankruptcy court a year later.)

One construction company Trump had hired for the Taj nearly went down with the gambling resort. It would be three years before Triad Building Specialties began recovering any money they’d put into the casino, according to The New York Times, and the company was paid only 30 cents on the dollar. Trump, meanwhile, continued to collect cash from his New Jersey casinos.

Michael Diehl, a retired piano dealer, ended up in a similar situation after Trump asked him to supply $100,000 of pianos for the Taj back in 1989. “I’m one of the many small business owners who’ve been used by Trump, exploited and forced to suffer a loss because of his corporation’s shady practices,” Diehl, 88, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed last September. Diehl was still waiting to be compensated months after the pianos had been delivered, and ultimately only ended up being paid 70 cents on the dollar.

Also in September, USA Today uncovered lawsuits from hundreds of contractors, dishwashers, waiters, plumbers, and even lawyers claiming Trump stiffed them on various projects, some of which were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Trump chalked most of it up to bad workmanship. (His daughter Ivanka defended him on this point during his campaign.)

The lawsuits continue to pour in from companies that performed work and services on the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., which opened late last year.

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A family-owned plumbing company claims Trump owes them $2.98 million for more than two years of work at Washington hotel, and a smaller construction company is still seeking $79,700 for molding work.

Most recently, an electrical contractor has slapped Trump’s newest luxury hotel with a $2.1 million lawsuit for “nonstop” work performed last year.

Trump also withheld compensation from 100 undocumented Polish workers who were hired in 1980 to tear down an Art Deco building on Fifth Avenue in order to erect Trump Tower in its place.

Marco Rubio referenced the undocumented workers to attack Trump’s immigration stance in a debate last February.

Needless to say, Trump won that battle with Rubio, as he may win the battle to build “the wall”—however much it costs, and whoever ends up footing the bill.