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Trump's wall vs. a $100 saw, and the winner is ...

President Donald Trump visits the U.S.-Mexico border fence

President Donald Trump visits the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Otay Mesa, Calif., on Sept. 18. A $100 saw can slice through one of the barrier's steel-and-concrete bollards in minutes, according to border agents. Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Nicholas Kamm

Another nick in the wall

President Donald Trump isn't given to understatement about the power, the strength and the technological triumph of the wall he is still mostly trying to build on the Mexican border with a price tag of at least $10 billion.

It's "virtually impenetrable," according to Trump. “If you think you’re going to cut it with a blow torch, that doesn’t work because you hit concrete, and then if you think you’re gonna go through the concrete, that doesn’t work because we have very powerful rebar inside,” Trump said on a September visit to the border.

But The Washington Post reports smuggling gangs in Mexico have repeatedly sawed through new sections of Trump’s border wall in recent months by using commercially available power tools, opening gaps large enough for people and drug loads to pass through.

How? A cordless tool known as a reciprocating saw that retails at hardware stores for as little as $100. When fitted with specialized blades, the saws can slice through one of the barrier’s steel-and-concrete bollards in minutes, border agents told the Post.

The smuggling crews, determined not to be put out of their multibillion-dollar business, also have successfully scaled the barriers with makeshift ladders.

A senior administration official said the new fencing has still "increased security and deterrence" and current and former Customs and Border Protection officials said the new bollard system beats any previous design. Some of the breaches occurred where electronic sensors to detect them have not yet been installed.

But the wall may not meet its most extravagant promise. Asked about the breaches Saturday Trump didn't repeat his "virtually impenetrable" claim. "You can cut through anything, in all fairness. But we have a lot of people watching. You know cutting, cutting is one thing, but it’s easily fixed," he said.

Whistleblower offers answers to GOP

A lawyer for the whistleblower who raised alarms about Trump's dealings with Ukraine said Sunday his client is willing to answer, under oath, written questions submitted by House Republicans.

Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, did not immediately respond.

Trump has repeatedly demanded the release of the whistleblower's identity, tweeting Sunday that the person "must come forward," and calling the account relayed through the intelligence community's inspector general false. 

But the whistleblower's complaint has been corroborated by people with firsthand knowledge of the events who have appeared on Capitol Hill.

Top House Democrats said on Sunday talk shows that public impeachment hearings will launch “very soon” and transcripts from the current round of closed-door sessions will be released. For more impeachment developments, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Dump-Trump jump

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds more Americans — 49% — favoring Trump's impeachment and removal from audience than the 46% who do not.

That’s a reversal from a month ago, when the survey found the numbers essentially flipped — 43% yes and 49% no . The stronger sentiment for removal comes mainly from Democrats and independents.

Asked Sunday about polls showing stronger pro-impeachment sentiment, Trump said, "You're reading the wrong polls. You're reading the wrong polls." He continued, "I have the real polls. I have the real polls."

Janison: Truth is beside the point

Let's say Trump really believes in diabolical plots connected to Ukraine on behalf of Democrats in 2016 and the Bidens

You would think, as Newsday's Dan Janison points out, that the best course of action would be to ask the world's strongest law-enforcement apparatus discreetly to find out what it could and report back, and work from there.

But perhaps it was a bigger priority for Trump to hear the Kyiv government loudly proclaim it was investigating than to get a result. Testimony to the impeachment inquiry describes Trump wanting President Volodymyr Zelensky to make “a public announcement of investigations” that would put Zelensky “in a public box.”

Trump and his allies have carnival-barked other inquiries that turned into vapor, such as the Barack Obama "wiretapping" of Trump Tower or the supposed tapes he had of his conversation with former FBI Director James Comey.

Ghost boos?

Many observers said they heard more boos and jeers than cheers when Trump entered the Ultimate Fighting Championship at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. 

But Trump's tweet about it suggested that he heard only adulation — "like walking into a Trump Rally." Donald Trump Jr. tweeted: "Why don’t you play the video you leftist hacks? I was there in the heart of NYC and it was overwhelmingly positive."

We'll supply the links, you decide. Compare the boo/cheer ratio in this clip from Saturday night to the noise from a mostly cheering 2017 crowd at the Garden welcoming the return of ex-Knick Carmelo Anthony. (Start at the one-minute mark.)

Many faces of Medicare for all

When it comes to how to pay for it, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are no longer in sync on Medicare for all.

Sanders told ABC News that his plan is "far more progressive" and Warren's plan could have a "very negative impact" on job creation by calling for nearly $9 trillion of $20 trillion to come from employers. Sanders' version calls for a 7.5% payroll tax, with the middle-class included. He contends lower health costs will offset it.

Joe Biden, who favors building on Obamacare, told PBS that Warren was lowballing her plan's cost — it would be "between $30 trillion and $40 trillion." Pete Buttigieg said on ABC's "This Week" that Warren's "math is certainly controversial" and he's "proposing Medicare for all who want it" but not forcing it on those who want to keep their private plans.

Andrew Yang told CNN that his version of Medicare for All could "exist to complement the current existing private insurance market." For more on the 2020 Democrats' health care debate, see Newsday's story by Scott Eidler.

What else is happening:

  • As the impeachment inquiry makes House intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff a bigger household name, Trump and his allies are trying to make "Shifty" a part of his ID. A New York Times profile delves into the Southern Californian's background, which includes convicting an FBI agent turned Soviet spy as a young prosecutor and dabbling in screenwriting.
  • Biden is trailing three other Democrats in fundraising, which was worrying enough for the former vice president to accept support from super PACs after first saying he would not. But experts said Biden’s financial shortfalls won’t necessarily translate into a lack of votes, particularly in early contests. See Emily Ngo's story for Newsday.
  • South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn said Buttigieg could be struggling with older black Democratic voters in his state because he is gay. "That's a generational issue — I know of a lot of the people my age feel that way," said Clyburn, 79, on CNN. But Clyburn added that he has a grandson in his 20s who's working on Buttigieg's campaign.
  • The NBC/WSJ poll and a new Fox News poll show Biden leading Trump by 11 and 12 points respectively. Warren's advantage over Trump is 8 points in the NBC/WSJ survey. Fox puts it at 5 points. 
  • Trump added a new variation to his collection of "like a dog" insults, telling a Mississippi rally that former Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke “quit like a dog.” 
  • Trump has posted more than 11,000 tweets since taking office, and The New York Times reports it analyzed every one of them. Aside from amplifying racists and conspiracy-mongers, The Times found Trump tweeted 5,889 attacks, directed at 630 people or things, while more than 2,000 were in praise of himself.

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