(KPIX 5) — Sparks flew on Tuesday, December 11 at White House meeting between President Trump, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and presumptive incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
With government funding set to run out on December 21st, the leaders convened to discuss a new budget agreement. But the event quickly devolved into argument, with the President threatening to shut down the government if the budget doesn’t contain sufficient funding for a border wall.
“If we don’t get what we want, one way or the other — whether it’s through you, through a military, through anything you want to call — I will shut down the government,” Trump told Schumer. “Absolutely.”
“Okay. Fair enough. We disagree,” Schumer replied.
While he didn’t insist on a specific amount, Trump said, “If we got $5 billion, we could do a tremendous chunk of wall.”
The budget proposal put forth by Democrats allocates $1.3 billion for border fencing and security.
According to Pelosi, “It’s actually what the border security asked for.” (Presumably referring to US Customs and Border Protection.)
With cameras rolling, Pelosi repeatedly tried to steer the conversation to something more civil. “This is the most unfortunate thing,” she said. “We came in here in good faith, and we are entering into this kind of a discussion in the public view.”
Still, she didn’t shy away from the argument, daring the President to let House Republicans vote on his border wall proposal.
“I will win easily with the Republicans,” said Trump.
“You will not win,” replied Pelosi.
“It doesn’t help to take that vote because I’m not going to get the vote of the Senate.”
“Well, don’t blame it on the Senate, Mr. President.”
And on it went for several awkward minutes with Trump insisting he doesn’t have the 60 votes in the Senate to pass a freestanding border wall bill.
At one point the President implied that Pelosi has to talk tough because she hasn’t officially been elected Speaker of the House, saying, “Nancy is in a situation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now, and I understand that.” Pelosi shot back, “Mr. President, please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the Leader of the House Democrats who just won a big victory.”
“Elections have consequences,” added Schumer, who then emphasized that it is the President who wants a shutdown. “You want to shut it down. You keep talking about it.”
The President agreed. “I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck, because the people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country,” Trump declared. “So I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it. The last time you shut it down, it didn’t work. I will take the mantle of shutting down.”
After the meeting, Pelosi said they actually had productive budget talks after the cameras left, though there was no agreement on the wall
Both Schumer and Pelosi told reporters outside the White House Tuesday that the shutdown will be Mr. Trump’s responsibility, and Mr. Trump’s alone.
“The president has the White House, he has the Senate, he has the House of Representatives, all in Republican control,” Pelosi said. “He has the power to keep government open. Instead, he has admitted in this meeting that he will take responsibility, the Trump shutdown is something that can be avoided. The American people do not need at the time of economic uncertainty, people losing jobs, the market in the mood and the rest, the Trump shutdown is luxury that the American people cannot afford.”
Despite all that, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders described the conversation as “constructive dialogue.”
“President Trump had a constructive dialogue with Democrat Leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi,” Sanders said in a statement after the meeting. “The president and the Democrat Leaders agreed to support the passage of historic criminal justice reform, and discussed significant progress with the farm bill. Major disagreement remains on the issue of border security and transparency. Walls work – where walls have been built, illegal crossings have dropped substantially. President Trump made clear that any government funding measure must include responsible border security, including a wall, to protect the American people from drugs, crime, terrorism, public health threats, and the severe straining of the social safety net.”
Following the public remarks, Pelosi had some disparaging remarks about the President in a private meeting with Democrats.
There were warning signs the meeting might not go well.
Mr. Trump fired off a series of tweets Tuesday morning blasting Democrats and urging them to secure the border. Mr. Trump claimed Democrats “for strictly political reasons and because they have been pulled so far left, do NOT want Border Security.”
“I look forward to my meeting with Chuck Schumer & Nancy Pelosi. In 2006, Democrats voted for a Wall, and they were right to do so. Today, they no longer want Border Security. They will fight it at all cost, and Nancy must get votes for Speaker. But the Wall will get built,” the president tweeted.
Earlier this year when the president met with Schumer behind closed doors, he appeared to have reached a deal on protecting recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, in exchange for border wall funding. Mr. Trump ultimately rejected that. The government shut down.