Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to workers during a visit to the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard on June 25, 2020 in Marinette, Wisconsin. The company was recently awarded a $5.5 billion contract to build ships for the U.S. Navy. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

'Saying the Quiet Part Out Loud,' Trump Suggests $5 Billion Weapons Contract Awarded to Boost 2020 Chances in Wisconsin

"There is nothing normal about the commander-in-chief publicly admitting that the government contracting process was corrupted by political considerations."

Julia Conley

Several shipbuilding companies may have grounds to file formal complaints with the U.S. Navy and the Government Accountability Office after President Donald Trump on Thursday suggested a multi-billion dollar weapons contract was awarded to a Wisconsin company because of its status location in a key 2020 battleground state.

Speaking to workers at Fincantieri Marinette Marine on Thursday, Trump said the company was selected for the $5.5 billion contract to build 10 guided-missile frigates because of the speed and maneuverability of its existing ships—and because of the company's location in a swing state.

"I hear the maneuverability is one of the big factors that you were chosen for the contract," the president said. "The other is your location in Wisconsin, if you want to know the truth."

"Always saying the quiet part out loud and undermining trust in government along the way," Peter W. Singer of the think tank New America tweeted in response.

Fincantieri Marinette Marine was awarded the contract in April, beating out companies in Maine, Mississippi, and Alabama. Maine, which has not supported a Republican for president in more than three decades, is currently expected to go to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in November, and the solidly-red states of Mississippi and Alabama are expected to vote for Trump.

"There is nothing normal about the commander-in-chief publicly admitting that the government contracting process was corrupted by political considerations."
—Robert Mackey, The Intercept

In Wisconsin, Biden is currently polling 10 points ahead of Trump according to a Marquette Law School survey taken on June 18. Hillary Clinton narrowly lost the battleground state in 2016 by fewer than 23,000 votes. 

As Robert Mackey wrote at The Intercept on Thursday, the shipbuilders who were passed over for the contract could feasibly file a protest with the GAO's Procurement Law Division. 

"There is nothing normal about the commander-in-chief publicly admitting that the government contracting process was corrupted by political considerations," wrote Mackey. 

The three companies who lost out on the contract have 10 days to file a protest from the day they learn that the reasoning for awarding the work to Fincantieri Marinette Marine may have been questionable, according to the GAO.

"That sound you're hearing is every Navy acquisition [public affairs officer] putting their phone on 'do not disturb' and activating their out-of-the-office automated email responses until the protest period ends," wrote Andrew Clevenger, a defense policy reporter at Roll Call. 

Jodi Vittori of the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International added that the U.S. Congress and the inspector general of the Navy could have reason to investigate the contract.

During his appearance in Wisconsin, the president also claimed that 15,000 jobs would be created by the guided-missile frigate project before changing the projected number to 9,000. Both estimates were well over the one put forward by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) in April, who projected "more than 5,000 direct and indirect jobs" would be created over a 10-year period as a result of the contract.

At The Intercept, Mackey corrected the record regarding Trump's claim during his speech that he had personally intervened in the design of the previously "terrible-looking" frigate, helping to design a "beautiful model."

"It's like a yacht with missiles on it," the president told the workers.

In fact, Mackey wrote, the frigate is based on an Italian warship that was in existence long before the Trump administration awarded the contract to Fincantieri Marinette Marine.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Dems Threaten to Subpoena FTI Consulting Over 'Blanket Refusal' to Provide Info on Fossil Fuel Work

"FTI's refusal to cooperate with this congressional inquiry shows that they have something to hide, which will reveal the dangerous ways agencies like theirs have promoted fossil fuel greenwash and misinformation," said the Clean Creatives campaign's leader.

Jessica Corbett ·


Bad Day for DeSantis as 'Stop WOKE Act' Hit With Injunction, Lawsuit

"If Florida truly believes we live in a post-racial society, then let it make its case," a federal judge wrote in blocking part of the controversial law. "But it cannot win the argument by muzzling its opponents."

Brett Wilkins ·


US Judge Says Mar-a-Lago Affidavit 'Can Be Unsealed' With Redactions

"This is going to be a considered, careful process, where everybody's rights, the government's and the media's, will be protected," declared U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart.

Jessica Corbett ·


Federal Judge Orders Starbucks to Rehire Fired Union Organizers in Memphis

"It was a ruling in favor of what's right," said one member of the Memphis Seven. "We knew from day one that we were going to win this, it just took time."

Brett Wilkins ·


Activists Arrested While Protesting 'Dirty Pipeline Deal' Outside Schumer's Office

"Sen. Schumer is sacrificing frontline communities and our clean energy future, all to placate a coal baron," said one organizer, referring to the majority leader's side agreement with Sen. Joe Manchin.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo