House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi accused President Donald Trump of using "scare tactics" to build support for his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, which she joked had been reduced from a giant, cement structure "to, I think, a beaded curtain."
Trump and congressional Democrats remained locked in a bitter stalemate Tuesday over billions of dollars in funding for the wall, which Trump has said is necessary to end a partial government shutdown now heading into its fourth day. With most lawmakers home for the holiday, a speedy resolution would amount to a Christmas miracle.
While wishing a Merry Christmas to troops overseas, Trump said he doesn't know when the ongoing government shutdown will end.
"It’s a disgrace what’s happening in our country," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. "But other than that, I wish everybody a very Merry Christmas."
While congressional Democrats say they will not support money for a border wall, Trump said the U.S. needs "a wall, a fence, whatever they want to call it." The remarks underscore how dug in both the White House and congressional Democrats have become amid a partial government shutdown that began Friday at midnight.
The president kept a low profile on Christmas Eve, at one point posting on Twitter that he was "alone" at the White House waiting for Democrats to agree to a deal to reopen federal agencies. The White House said Trump met with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen about border security but provided no detail about the discussion.
"At some point the Democrats not wanting to make a deal will cost our Country more money than the Border Wall we are all talking about," Trump posted on Twitter. "Crazy!"
Trump told reporters late Monday that there was nothing new to report on budget negotiations.
"We need more border security,” he said.
In an interview, Pelosi told USA TODAY over the weekend Trump is "being a fear monger" by asserting immigrants will bring drugs and other dangers into the U.S. Experts believe most drugs entering the country are smuggled in through legal ports of entry.
Trump ran for president on a promise to strengthen immigration restrictions and build the wall. He took heat from conservatives after the White House initially signaled an openness to a short-term funding measure that would have kept government agencies opened but would not have significantly increased funding border barriers.
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"He talked about terrorists coming in over that particular border, which wasn't so. He talked about people bringing in diseases and all the rest of that, which wasn't so," Pelosi, a California Democrat and presumed next Speaker of the House, told USA TODAY. "He's using scare tactics that are not evidence based, and it's wrong."
Pelosi mocked the shifting message from the White House about whether Trump wanted a "wall," a fence or some other structure.
"First of all, the fact...that he says ‘we're going to build a wall with cement and Mexico's going to pay for it’ while he's already backed off of the cement – now he's down to, I think, a beaded curtain or something, I'm not sure where he is," Pelosi said.
A White House spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
Democrats, noting the market slide on Monday and recent shakeups in Trump's Cabinet, reiterated their accusation that Trump is "plunging the country into chaos." With both sides dug in over the shutdown, it was unclear whether actual progress was being made toward resolving the impasse.
The Senate isn't set to meet again until Thursday at the earliest, and White House officials have predicted the shutdown could continue into the new Congress, which begins Jan. 3. Democrats will take control of the House on that day, and Pelosi said she expects the chamber will pass legislation to reopen federal agencies quickly.
Whether that measure would include additional money for the border remains unclear.
"But one thing's for sure, the first week of January we will be passing legislation to open up government," Pelosi said.
Contributing: Nicole Gaudiano and David Jackson
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Government shutdown, day 4: Pelosi blames Trump for using 'scare tactics' over border wall