Donald Trump, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and Republican legislators, speaks to the press after lunch with GOP representatives, Capitol Hill, January 9, 2019 (Alex Brandon/AP)
Donald Trump has continued the Trump Shutdown of the Federal Government, dramatically walking out of a brief meeting with Congressional leaders.
On the 19th day of the shutdown, Trump left when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats would not give $5.7 billion for Trump’s $25 billion Wall with Mexico, even if Trump agreed on funding to reopen the government.
Democrats left the White House Situation Room speaking of a “temper tantrum” by Trump, slamming his hands on the table and departing with a “bye-bye”. Pelosi said:
It wasn’t even a high-stakes negotiation; it was a petulant president of the United States. A person who would say, “I’ll keep government shut down for weeks, months or years unless I get my way.”
Trump confirmed his walkout:
Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time. I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 9, 2019
As news spread of the drama, pointing to Trump’s talk of a shutdown of “months or even years” and his possible declaration of a national emergency to bypass Congress for Wall money, the White House and Republicans scrambled to present a calm President in control. Vice President Mike Pence portrayed a Trump handing out candy: “I don’t recall him ever raising his voice or slamming his hand.”
But both White House and Democrat officials described a meeting in which Trump immediately insisted on the $5.7 billion for the Wall — having vetoed last week a compromise, presented by Pence, of $2.5 billion for border security — and Democrats said they support border security funds but no money for a 30-foot-tall concrete or steel barrier.
“You are using people as leverage; why won’t you open the government and stop hurting people?” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer asked.
“Then you won’t give me what I want,” Trump replied. (The White House official tried to soften the statement, saying that Trump added, “I am trying to do the right thing for the country. This isn’t about politics.”)
Democrat Senator Dick Durbin said GOP leaders were silent: “[Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell didn’t say a word at the meeting. Not a word, come to think of it, I don’t think [House Minority Leader Kevin] McCarthy did either.”
Schumer said later, “It was an amazing meeting. The president threw another temper tantrum, slammed the table and walked out.”
Pelosi threw shade on Trump with a reference to the $431 million that he received from his father and from tax manipulation to support his business:
Pelosi: Trump doesn't understand the financial insecurity facing federal workers during the shutdown: "The president seems to be insensitive to that. He thinks maybe they could just ask their father for more money. But they can't." Via CNN pic.twitter.com/9WZKB3s3QV
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 9, 2019
On the floor of the House of Representatives, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts — in her maiden speech — calls out Trump over the damage to workers, the poor, and migrants from the shutdown and the pursuit of The Wall:
Meanwhile Trump, speaking to reporters before the meeting with legislators, continued his threat to declare a national emergency:
Trump: “I have the absolute right to do national emergency if I want.”
Question: What determines if you declare it a national emergency?
Trump: “If I can’t make a deal.” pic.twitter.com/weC84fl8fS
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) January 9, 2019
Before the meeting, there were more signs of Republican legislators breaking from Trump amid concern over almost 800,000 Federal employees on furlough or unpaid work; walkouts by airport security staff; effects on food stamps, mortgages, tax refunds, and farm subsidies; and difficulties for manufacturers amid Trump’s trade war and tariffs.
At Trump’s lunch with GOP legislators, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska pledged to confront Trump over his tactics. Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, a conservative, said Senate Republicans were “getting pretty close” to a breaking point.
Trump insisted, “There was no discussion about anything other than solidarity.”
Asked if any Republicans are urging him to end the shutdown, Trump says "they're with us all the way," then abruptly pivots to attacking the media.
"The fake news is the fake news," he says. pic.twitter.com/miHJLKO0M0
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 9, 2019
Just before the December 21 shutdown, the Senate unanimously passed a continuing resolution for Government funding, with $1.3 billion for border security. Trump rejected the measure.
Last Thursday, the House of Representatives — now controlled by Democrats — passed a similar measure, with separate funding for the Department of Homeland Security to continue discussion on border security. Senate Majority Leader McConnell has refused to allow Senators to consider the bill.
Some GOP senators met Wednesday evening with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, but made no apparent progress.
“[Trump is] like the Missouri mule who sits down in the mud and says, ‘I’m not moving,’” said Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana.
John Cornyn of Texas tried a more flattering analogy, “What did Benjamin Franklin say at the constitutional convention? We need to hang together or we’ll hang separately. That’s what it reminded me of.”
On Tuesday, Trump gave a nine-minute speech which appeared to fall flat. Today he will visit Texas for a photo opportunity on the Mexico border.
Trump has reportedly already dismissed any significance beyond presentation, telling reporters on Tuesday afternoon, “It’s not going to change a damn thing, but I’m still doing it.”
He criticized the media without retracting the statement yesterday:
Gave an OFF THE RECORD luncheon, somewhat of a White House tradition or custom, to network anchors yesterday – and they quickly leaked the contents of the meeting. Who would believe how bad it has gotten with the mainstream media, which has gone totally bonkers!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 10, 2019
Senator Durbin said Trump offered the refrain yesterday, “I don’t know why I’m doing this. I didn’t want to do this meeting. They told me I had to do this meeting.”
Kevin Sieff of The Washington Post offers perspective on the area where Trump is staging his photo:
When Trump visits McAllen tomorrow, he'll be promoting a $5.7 billion border wall in a community where nearly half of all children live below the poverty line, where 30 percent of kids are food insecure. That's the backdrop for his sales pitch.
— Kevin Sieff (@ksieff) January 9, 2019
Rationalizing the “Terrorist” Lie
The White House tried to repair its line of a migrant threat on Wednesday.
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders falsely said on Sunday that 4,000 “terrorists” had crossed into the US from Mexico, only to be challenged by Fox News interviewer Chris Wallace that the State Department had declared no terrorist entry.
Sanders told another Fox program yesterday that the lie didn’t matter.
FOX & FRIENDS: Sarah, why did you dramatically inflate the number of people on watchlists who were detained by Border Patrol?@PressSec: "The bottom line is whether it's one, 4, 14 or 4,000, one terrorist coming into our country in illegal fashion to do us harm one too many." pic.twitter.com/x3HrdANppq
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 9, 2019
Trump scrambled over his declaration of a “crisis”, given that undocumented crossings have decreased steadily over the past two decades:
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 9, 2019
WATCH: Trump argues that we need a border wall to stop migrants just driving right across in their "unbelievable vehicles… stronger, bigger, and faster vehicles than our police have, than ICE has" pic.twitter.com/b04eEKuL0I
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) January 9, 2019