Donald Trump walked out of a meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday after failing to make progress on resolving the impasse over the president’s demand for funding to build a wall on the Mexico border, a standoff that has led to a government shutdown now in its third week.
Moments after the White House meeting disintegrated, the president headed to Twitter to vent his frustration.
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
Exiting the White House, Democratic leaders did not dispute the substance of Trump’s retelling of events.
“Well, unfortunately the president just got up and walked out. He asked Speaker Pelosi, ‘Will you agree to my wall?’ She said ‘no.’ And he just got up and said, ‘Then we have nothing to discuss.’ And he just walked out,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer told reporters.
He said Trump “slammed the table” in frustration as he was leaving.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also painted the president as intransigent. “It’s cold out here, and the temperature was not much warmer in the Situation Room,” where leaders of both parties met with Trump and other administration officials, said Pelosi. She lamented the “collateral damage” to federal workers living paycheck to paycheck who may not be able to pay their bills as the shutdown drags on.
“The president seems to be insensitive to that,” Pelosi said. “He thinks that maybe they could just ask their father for more money. But they can’t. They can’t.”
She added: “If you don’t understand financial insecurity, then you would have a policy that takes pride in saying ‘I’m going to keep government shut down for months or years unless you totally agree to my position.'”
Schumer also placed blame for the stalemate on Trump.
“I asked him to open up the government,” Schumer said. “Tomorrow, so many people will have trouble paying their mortgages. Paying their bills. Dealing with situations when they don’t get paid. And I said, ‘Just why won’t you do that? And continue to discuss. We’re willing to discuss anything.’ And he said, ‘If I open up the government, you won’t do what I want.’ That’s cruel, that’s callous and that’s using millions of innocent people as sort of pawns.”
Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, later told reporters that Trump said “I don’t know why I’m doing this. I don’t want to do this meeting. They told me I had to do this meeting.”
Taking their turn at the microphones immediately after the Democratic leaders departed, Republicans at the meeting gave their version of events.
“We continue to hear the idea, and I know there are going to be votes tomorrow, that the House will take up bills to open portions of the government,” Vice President Mike Pence, the president’s lead negotiator with Democrats, told reporters. “And the president literally called the question, he said, ‘If I opened up the government quickly, would you agree to border security and a wall?’ The speaker of the House said no. And at that point I think the president thought there was no longer any reason to be talking at this meeting. But as we said afterwards and we had conversations with the leaders before they left, we hope they come back to the table.’”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy disputed Schumer’s account of the meeting, saying Trump was “respectful,” “calm” and “polite” before walking out of the room. “He even brought a little candy for everybody,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy sought to blame Trump’s adversaries for the shutdown, saying “Not once have the Democrats offered anything back,” and adding, “They just want to argue.”
When it was over, the only thing that all parties seemed to agree on was the president’s assessment that the meeting had been “a total waste of time.” Disagreement continued, though, about why.
—Dylan Stableford contributed to this article.
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