WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump may have written the book on deal-making, but when it comes to the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, it appears he won’t be getting the bargain he wanted.
Documents filed with the official database of federal spending show that the State Department awarded the Maryland-based company Desbuild Limak D&K a contract for $21.2 million to design and build an “addition and compound security upgrades” at the embassy. These updates will be made to the former consular building in Jerusalem -- the embassy’s temporary location.
“We’re going to have it built very quickly and very inexpensively,” President Trump said of the embassy back in March, while sitting beside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office. “They put an order in front of my desk last week for a billion dollars. I said, ‘A billion? What’s that for?’”
“We’re actually doing it for about $250,000,” the president said.
Trump’s comments created confusion at the time, as many wondered if he was conflating the costs for modifying the consulate and the price for constructing a new embassy. But President Trump doubled down on most of his claims at an April press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, raising his estimate for the renovation to between $300,000 and $400,000.
“That’s the way government works,” Trump said. “They were going to spend a billion dollars and we are going to spend much less than a half a million.”
While the total bill may not be near the billion dollar mark yet, the expenses are adding up. In addition to the $21.2 million allotted for the next phase of upgrades, the government has already spent over $300,000 on initial modifications to the former consular building prior to opening the embassy in May.
A State Department official told ABC News today that President Trump’s estimates only factored in that first phase of modifications to the former consular building, not this second round of renovation.
The embassy’s 33 mile move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has racked up both costs and controversy, prompting weeks of protests from Palestinians and violent clashes with Israeli troops. Some world leaders, like Netanyahu, have praised Trump’s decision. Others have said it would contribute to instability in the region and further stoke conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, as both claim the city as their capital.
Previously, the United States and most other countries with diplomatic ties to Israel have avoided pre-empting any decision on the city’s official status by basing their operations in Tel Aviv. Formally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was one of Trump’s 2016 campaign promises.