Donald Trump joked during his Wednesday tax speech in Indiana that cost estimates for a new fence around the White House are so high that perhaps a small construction company whose founder was in the audience should get the job.
John Gannon, whose Custom Wood Fencing company in suburban Indianapolis builds decks and gazebos, was one of three small businessmen whom Trump said would benefit from tax cuts he wants to push through Congress.
And instead of a $50 million price tag, the president said, Gannon could likely complete the project for $1 million.
It was a joke, of course: The U.S. Secret Service requires that fences protecting the nation’s executive mansion be made of hardened steel.
WANT A JOB? President Donald trump joked with a man in his audience during a tax speech on Wednesday about whether he would like to build a new fence around the White House; the man runs a construction company that builds wooden decks and fencing
OBSOLETE AND TOO SHORT: The current fence around the White House is slated to be replaced entirely by the end of next year, and Trump said Wednesday that he was presented with a $50 million cost estimate
But Trump made his point. And the fence, which a handful of people have creached in recent years, is slated for replacement – with one that’s 5 feet higher.
Deck builder John Gannon chuckled along with Trump at the idea of taking on the project
‘You know we have a fence around the White House. We have a fence around the White House, and they want to build a new fence,’ Trump said in an off-the-cuff moment on Wednesday.
He said his history in construction taught him that the project should cost, ‘I don’t know, maybe a million. Maybe a million and a half.’
Trump recalled asking someone at the White House how much taxpayers would actually spend on the fence.
‘”Sir! The fence will cost approximately 50 million dollars”‘ was the answer, he said.
‘I said, “What?” I kid you not. And we have thousands of things like that. Thousands.’
OVER YOU GO: Joseph Caputo, 22, was arrested by Secret Service after he jumped over the White House fence on Thanksgiving Day in 2015; he had left a suicide note
‘So John,’ Trump asked, addressing Gannon: ‘Do you think you can do it for slightly less than $50 million? I think you could take 49 off right now and you’d have plenty of profit, right, John?’
Gannon is a father of nine children and employs three other people, according to the Indianapolis Star.
The National Capital Planning Commission approved a design for a new fence in February, shortly after Trump was sworn in as president.
It will be more than 13 feet tall, including a stone base and nearly 11 feet of metal.
White House insiders say they hope the updated barrier will discourage fence-jumpers like Omar Gonzalez, who leaped the existing structure in September 2014 and made it all the way into the White House itself.
This graphic from the National Capital Planning Commission shows the area encircled by the White House’s fencing
The new fence design (bottom) will be 5 feet higher than the current barrier, making it harder to scale
2-inch jagged lances at the top of each fence post will serve to deter would-be jumpers
Gonzalez overpowered a Secret Service officer and ran through much of the main floor before he was tackled.
At least five other trespassers have made it onto the White House grounds in the past three years.
A week before Gonzalez made his leap, a 26-year-old schizophrenic man named Jeffrey Grossman scaled the fence and was apprehended by Secret Service agents.
On Thanksgiving Day in 2015, Joseph Caputo, 22, was arrested by Secret Service after he jumped over. Caputo had left a suicide note and intended to die.
The Obamas were inside eating dinner at the time.
This year in March a California man named Jonathan Tran came within a few steps of the White House after bounding over the fence. Tran, 26, was carrying a backpack that contained two cans of mace and was able to roam the grounds for 17 minutes without being detected.