The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that Trump's budget proposal for the wall makes room for a team — of lawyers. Specifically, "[T]he addition of 20 Justice Department attorneys to 'pursue federal efforts to obtain the land and holdings necessary to secure the southwest border.'"
Why? To deal with the issue of eminent domain.
What is eminent domain?
Eminent domain is the legal process the government can use to take privately owned land for the use of the state in exchange for compensation. It's covered in the Fifth Amendment of The Constitution under the aptly titled "Eminent Domain Clause," as Legal Dictionary explains:
"The Eminent Domain Clause permits the government to appropriate private property, both real estate and personal belongings, for a public purpose so long as the owner receives just compensation, which is normally equated with the fair market value of the property. The Fifth Amendment attempts to strike a balance between the needs of the public and the property rights of the owner."
Here's how it applies to Trump. He wants to build his "big beautiful wall," but the land he needs is privately owned. The Washington Post spoke to Tony Martinez, an attorney who is also the mayor of the Texas border town of Brownsville, who said "It's going to be time consuming and costly. From a political perspective, you have a lot of rich landowners who were his supporters."
Did the issue of eminent domain come up during the election?
It did. It was even asked about in a New Hampshire debate during the primaries. "Mr. Trump," moderator Josh McElveen asked, "you have said quote I love eminent domain ... you've said you'd support its use for the Keystone pipeline project ... do you see eminent domain as an appropriate tool?" (It should be noted McElveen was solely referring the use of eminent domain in this scenario, not for the wall.)
Trump's response was "Eminent domain is an absolute necessity for our country. Without it you wouldn't have roads, you wouldn't have hospitals, you wouldn't have anything ... and eminent domain is a good thing and not a bad thing ... when eminent domain is used on somebody's property, that person gets a fortune. They get at least fair market value."
He then repeated some variation of these phrases before he ran out of time, then proceeded to argue with Jeb Bush after Bush pointed out how Trump used eminent domain in the past.
What is Jeb Bush up to?
But back to eminent domain.
How has Trump used eminent domain in the past?
During the debate, Bush said to Trump, "the difference between eminent domain for public purpose, as Donald said [about] roads, infrastructure, pipelines and all that, that's for public purpose. What Donald Trump did was use eminent domain to try to take the property of an elderly woman on the strip in Atlantic City. That is not public purpose. That is downright wrong."
In August 2015, The Washington Post published a piece titled "Donald Trump’s history of eminent domain abuse" that highlights the story of Vera Coking, the "elderly woman" Bush spoke of, who lived just off the strip. Trump wanted her property to build a "limousine parking lot" for his casino. But Coking didn't want to sell.
Trump teamed up with the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) to try to take her land. They took it to court, and they lost.
But wait, there's more:
"[T]his was not the only time that Trump sought to use eminent domain to seize property from unwilling owners. In 1994, he also lobbied the city of Bridgeport to condemn five small businesses so he could build an office and entertainment complex that he absurdly claimed would turn Bridgeport into a 'national tourist destination.'"
In other words, Trump is fond of using eminent domain whether or not he's legally in the right to use it. Which explains why he made room in his budget for attorneys in the Justice Department who specialize in land acquisition. And he's budgeting to acquire each and every one.
[h/t The Washington Post]