In an extraordinary public face-off, President Trump met with the two top Democratic Congressional leaders in a meeting over border security that devolved into a finger-pointing shouting match that ended with Trump declaring that he will take his football and go home if he doesn’t get his way.
Insisting that Democrats must cave-in to his demands for $5 billion in funding for a border wall that Trump promised during his campaign for the presidency that Mexico would pay for and that no credible border security expert thinks is an effective solution, Trump threatened to shut down the government over the issue.
“One way or the other it’s going to get built. I’d like not to see a government closing, a shutdown,” Trump said. “But the wall is a very important thing to us.”
“If we don’t get what we want, one way or the other…I will shut down the government,” Trump said later in the meeting.
With Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the presumed incoming Speaker of the House, and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senate Minority Leader, both insisting that Trump knows that he does not have the votes in Congress to pass any legislation funding the construction of the massive, politically-motivated boondoggle and that any attempt by Trump to shut down the government over the issue would be wildly irresponsible, the president will be forced to take on the blame for any cessation of government services and temporary layoffs of government workers during the holidays.
“I think the American people recognize that we must keep government open. That a shutdown is not worth anything and that we should not have a Trump shutdown,” Pelosi said.
Senator Schumer also made the Democratic position opposing a shutdown crystal clear in a lengthy exchange that backed Trump into a corner and forced him to accept full responsibility for any looming shutdown.
Schumer: “One thing I think we can agree on is we shouldn’t shut down the government over a dispute. You want to shut it down.”
Trump: “The last time you shut it down.”
Schumer: “No. 20 times you called for, ‘I will shut down the government if I don’t get my wall.’ You said it. You said it.”
Trump: “You know what I will say? Yes. If we don’t get what we want through you or through military or anyone you want to call, I will shut down the government.”
Schumer: “We disagree.”
Trump: “I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck. The people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country. 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 for shutting down. I’m going to shut it down for border security.
Schumer: “But we believe you shouldn’t shut it down.”
Trump’s xenophobic focus on immigration at the expense of infrastructure, social services, health care, the environment, and many other issues that are considerably more important to the American people than the imaginary dangers that populate the president’s delusional, racist rants about desperate asylum seekers led to the unusual public sparring at a meeting that was supposed to be a closed-door session until Trump decided he needed an audience for his bluster and invited the press to attend.
During the back and forth raised-voice discussion between the president and the two congressional leaders, Trump continually and rudely interrupted Rep. Pelosi and referred derogatorily to her attempts to secure the necessary votes to become the Speaker of the next House of Representatives.
“Nancy’s in a situation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now,” Trump said, implying that Pelosi wasn’t negotiating from a position of strength due to her efforts to corral support from dissident Democrats in the House.
Pelosi shot back immediately:
“Please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting.”
After the meeting, Schumer and Pelosi stuck to their guns in refusing to give the President the $5 billion he wants for the wall.
“The bottom line is simple,” Senator Schumer said. “The President made clear that he wants a shutdown. His position, if he sticks to his position for a $5 billion wall, he will get no wall and he will get a shutdown. The bottom line is very, very simple. That is, we want border security. We offered him border security. But Americans know that the wall, not paid for by Mexico anymore, is not the way to border security.”
“This Trump shutdown, this temper tantrum that he seems to throw, will not get him his wall and will hurt a lot of people,” he added.
With government shutdowns deeply unpopular with the public and damaging to the economy, political analysts see today’s Oval Office encounter as a political victory for the Democrats with the President’s statements leaving Republicans unable to spin the blame for any shutdown on their opposition after their putative leader claimed ownership.
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Original reporting by CNN.