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The Trump administration is looking to seize land from Texans in order to build a border wall — and now, some are fighting back to stop it from happening.

Becky Jones, a Texas landowner, is preparing to take the Trump administration to court to keep her land, she told the New York Times this week. Her decision came after receiving a letter from the government demanding she allow officials to survey her farmland as the first step towards seizing it to build a border wall.

Jones told the Times that the border wall would harm wildlife in the area, which is near the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge. A 2019 congressional spending bill specified property within that refuge is off limits from a border wall, according to the Times.

Richard Drawe, another Texas landowner, took a different route, grudgingly accepting a Trump administration financial offer for land his grandfather purchased in the 1920s. Drawe’s family owns a farm near the Rio Grande river with breathtaking views, according to the Times, but a future border wall will ruin that view.

“We just finally gave up,” Drawe told the Times. “If they offered me a million dollars to build the wall, I would refuse it if I knew they wouldn’t build it. I don’t want the money. This is my life here.”

Jones and Drawe are not alone in lamenting Trump’s efforts to seize private land for his border wall. According to the Texas Tribune, many other landowners are fighting the Trump administration’s efforts to survey their land for a border wall.

Ricky Garza, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, told the Tribune that he has several clients currently fighting the Trump administration in court over the issue of property access to survey land.

“Hell no, we’re not signing anything,” David Acevedo, a landowner near Loredo, told the Tribune when he was asked if he would give permission to federal agents to survey his land.

According to the Associated Press, the Trump administration has ramped up efforts to take land from private citizens, filing three lawsuits in December alone. The Times noted that courts generally defer to the executive branch in cases of emergencies, meaning most families will eventually be forced to settle for compensation for their land, even if they don’t want to lose it.

Donald Trump made a campaign promise in 2016 to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. At the time, he vowed that Mexico would pay for the wall, but that plan fell through when Mexico flatly refused to do so. Trump later declared a national emergency along the southern border to force through his plans for a wall and is using billions of dollars allocated to the military to pay for it.

Trump promised up to 450 miles of new border wall would be built by the end of 2020, according to the Times. However, thus far, the administration has build zero miles of new wall, and has simply replaced roughly 90 miles of older barriers.

The administration counts those replacements as “new wall,” according to the Times.

Property owners in the region say the fight to keep their lands is nothing new.

Pamela Rivas, a landowner near the Los Ebanos port of entry to Mexico, has been fighting to keep her land since the George W. Bush administration first tried to take it from her, her son, Michael Maldonado, told the Times.

“The longer that we can endure it, maybe something might change,” Maldonado said. “Maybe a new administration comes in and says, ‘you know, we’re not going to deal with this.'”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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  • 1.Why did Trump choose to hide certain specific files and not others at Mar-a-Lago? What were the criteria that Trump used to keep some files concealed and not others? Who selected those files? Did Trump consult or direct anyone in his selection of secret files? Trump was notorious for being too impatient to read his briefing papers, even after they had been drastically shortened and simplified. Is there the slightest evidence that he spirited these papers away so that he could consult or study them? Who besides Trump knew of the presence of the files he had concealed at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 2. Mar-a-Lago has an infamous reputation for being open to penetration even by foreign spies. In 2019, the FBI arrested a Chinese woman who had entered the property with electronic devices. She was convicted of trespassing, lying to the Secret Service, and sentenced and served eight-months in a federal prison, before being deported to China. Have other individuals with possible links to foreign intelligence operations been present at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 3. Did members of Trump's Secret Service detail have knowledge of his secret storage of the files at Mar-a-Lago? What was the relationship of the Secret Service detail to the FBI? Did the Secret Service, or any agent, disclose information about the files to the FBI?
  • 4. Trump's designated representatives to the National Archives are Kash Patel and John Solomon, co-conspirators in the investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election of 2016, the Ukraine missiles-for-political dirt scandal that led to the first impeachment in 2019, and the coup of 2020. Neither has any professional background in handling archival materials. Patel, a die-hard Trump loyalist whose last job in the administration was as chief of staff to the Acting Secretary of Defense, was supposedly involved in Trump’s “declassification” of some files. Patel has stated, “Trump declassified whole sets of materials in anticipation of leaving government that he thought the American public should have the right to read themselves."
  • The White House counsel failed to generate the paperwork to change the classification markings, but that doesn’t mean the information wasn’t declassified.” If Pat Cipollone, the White House legal counsel, did not “generate the paperwork,” was he or anyone on his staff aware at all of the declassifications? The White House Staff Secretary Derek Lyons resigned his post in December 2020. Did his successor, who held the position for a month, while Trump was consumed with plotting his coup, ever review the material found in Trump’s concealed files for declassification? Or did Patel review the material? Can Patel name any individual who properly reviewed the supposed declassification?
  • 5. Why did Trump keep his pardon of Roger Stone among his secret files? Was it somehow to maintain leverage over Stone? What would that leverage be? Would it involve Stone's role as a conduit with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers during the coup? Or is there another pardon in Trump’s files for Stone, a secret pardon for his activities in the January 6th insurrection? Because of the sweeping nature of the pardon clause, pardons can remain undisclosed (until needed). Pardons are self-executing, require no justification and are not subject to court review beyond the fact of their timely execution. In other words, a court may verify the pardon was valid in time but has no power to review appropriateness. A pardon could even be oral but would need to be verifiable by a witness. Do the files contain secret pardons for Trump himself, members of his family, members of the Congress, and other co-conspirators?
  • 6.Was the FBI warrant obtained to block the imminent circulation or sale of information in the files to foreign powers? Does the affidavit of the informant at Mar-a-Lago, which has not been released, provide information about Trump’s monetization that required urgency in executing the warrant? Did Trump monetize information in any of the files? How? With whom? Any foreign power or entity? Was the Saudi payment from its sovereign wealth fund for the LIV Golf Tournament at Trump’s Bedminster Golf Club for a service that Trump rendered, an exchange of anything of value or information that was in the files? If it involved information in the files was it about nuclear programs? Was it about the nuclear program of Israel? How much exactly was the Saudi payment for the golf tournament? The Saudi sovereign wealth fund gave Jared Kushner and former Trump Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin $2 billion for their startup hedge fund, Affinity Partners. Do the Saudis regard that investment as partial payment for Trump’s transfer of nuclear information? Were Kushner or Mnuchin aware of the secret files at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 7.Did Trump destroy any of the files? If so, when? Did those files contain incriminating information? Did he destroy any files after he received the June subpoena?
  • 8.Were any of the secrets of our allies compromised? Has the U.S. government provided an inventory of breaches or potential breaches to our allies?
  • 9.Does the resort maintain a copying machine near the classified documents that Trump hid? Were any of the documents copied or scanned? Are Trump’s documents at Mar-a-Lago originals or copies? Were any copies shown or given to anyone?
  • 10.Trump’s lawyer Christina Bobb has revealed that a video surveillance system covers the places where Trump hid the files at Mar-a-Lago, and that the system is connected to a system at his other residences at the Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey and Trump Tower in New York City. According to Bobb, Trump and members of his family observed the FBI search and seizure of his files at Mar-a-Lago, “actually able to see the whole thing” through their surveillance system. Who has that surveillance system recorded entering the rooms where the files were kept?

Kevin Bacon, right, in "The Following"

The aftermath of the August 8, 2022 search of the Mar-a-Lago club, former President Donald Trump’s Florida home, isn’t the first showdown between the FBI and a cult leader.

The Following, a 2013 Fox Pictures series, played out in similar fashion. Three seasons was enough for the producers and it’s been nine years since our introduction to Joe Carroll, English professor-novelist-serial killer, so there’s a spoiler risk -- but not enough to prevent the comparison.

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