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Workers drop pieces of border wall into place in New Mexico. Photo: Jordyn Rozensky, Justin Hamel/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A group of 91 Democratic lawmakers is calling on the Trump administration to halt border wall construction during the coronavirus pandemic.

Driving the news: The lawmakers, led by Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), are making their case in letters being sent today to agency heads at the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS), Justice and Defense.

The big picture: COVID-19 has appeared in immigrant detention centers, denied entry to thousands of migrants, delayed immigrant hearings and reportedly infected nearly 900 DHS employees.

Details: A total of 66 House members and 25 senators signed the letters — including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, six former presidential candidates in the Senate, House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler and three members of "the squad."

  • Signatures include those of several Democrats representing border districts: Reps. Cuellar, Ann Kirkpatrick, Veronica Escobar, and Vicente Gonzalez.
  • Several immigrants rights organizations also endorsed the letters.

What they're saying: Wall construction "defies" CDC social distancing and quarantine policies while money being used on the "ineffective and wasteful border wall" should be invested in fighting the virus, lawmakers wrote.

  • "It's insulting that in the middle of this emergency, instead of having the focus on making sure we got supplies, making sure that we're beating all of this, they're still going with this wall — this campaign promise from the president," Cuellar told Axios.
  • "The last thing we need is to put workers and the surrounding communities at risk when they already lack the health care infrastructure to handle this public health crisis," Heinrich told Axios in a statement.

By the numbers: The Trump administration has allocated $1.375 billion to build roughly 69 miles of border wall in fiscal year 2020, according to CBP's latest border wall data.

  • Since January 2017, the administration has built 158 miles of border wall, mostly replacing dilapidated or outdated barriers with taller, more effective fencing.

Read the letter here.

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”

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