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The issue

President Trump unveiled today an executive action to get to work on his wall on our border with Mexico.

The facts

Trump wants a 1,000 mile wall, constructed of concrete and steel, between 35-60 feet high. The other 1,000 miles of the border won't need a wall because of natural obstacles, including mountains and deserts. Trump says the wall will cost $8-12 billion, but the MIT Technology Review took a more critical look and predicts between $27-40 billion.

There's already about 650 miles of fencing on the border, courtesy of a 2006 law signed by George W. Bush. The effort focused on high traffic areas for border crossings of illegal immigrants and drugs, and cost a little less than $3 billion. Previous attempts to build a bigger wall or install more high fencing stalled in Congress.

Expand chart
Data: OpenStreetMap; Map: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

What's next: Trump plans to have Congress pay for the first part of the wall using that 2006 law. He claims he'll get Mexico to pay us back using NAFTA re-negotiations and by potentially freezing remittances from Mexican nationals in the United States. Mexico says that won't happen.

Go deeper

OIG: HHS misused millions of dollars intended for public health threats

Vaccine vials. Photo: Punit Paranjpe/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel alerted the White House and Congress on Wednesday of an investigation that found the Department of Health and Human Services misused millions of dollars that were budgeted for vaccine research and public health emergencies for Ebola, Zika and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it matters: The more than 200-page investigation corroborated claims from a whistleblower, showing the agency's violation of the Purpose Statute spanned both the Obama and Trump administrations and paid for unrelated projects like salaries, news subscriptions and the removal of office furniture.

John Kerry: U.S.-China climate cooperation is a "critical standalone issue"

President Biden's special climate envoy John Kerry said Wednesday that the U.S. must deal with China on climate change as a "critical standalone issue," but stressed that confronting Beijing's human rights and trade abuses "will never be traded" for climate cooperation.

Why it matters: The last few years have brought about a bipartisan consensus on the threat posed by China. But as the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, China will be a vital player if the world is going to come close to reining in emissions on the scale needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals of limiting warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

In cyber espionage, U.S. is both hunted and hunter

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

American outrage over foreign cyber espionage, like Russia's SolarWinds hack, obscures the uncomfortable reality that the U.S. secretly does just the same thing to other countries.

Why it matters: Secrecy is often necessary in cyber spying to protect sources and methods, preserve strategic edges that may stem from purloined information, and prevent diplomatic incidents.