WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump informed Democratic leaders Wednesday that he wouldn't work with them on shared priorities such as infrastructure and bringing down the cost of prescription drugs unless they abandoned investigations into his presidency.
In an unusual and unexpected appearance in the Rose Garden, Trump said he told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer at a White House meeting that it would be impossible to go forward on discussions while "phony" congressional investigations hang over his administration.
Trump spoke specifically about infrastructure, but it was difficult to see how the White House could work with the Democratic-controlled House on other issues, including prescription drugs or a pending trade agreement with Mexico and Canada that the president wants approved.
"You probably can’t go down two tracks," he said after wrapping up a meeting with the two Democratic leaders at the White House. "You can go down the investigation track, or you can go down the investment track."
Trump said he walked into the meeting with Pelosi, Schumer and other Democrats and told them, "I want to do infrastructure. But you know what, you can’t do it under these circumstances."
Trump spent about three minutes talking to the Democratic leaders who gathered in the Cabinet Room to discuss infrastructure, repeating many of the same points he later made in Rose Garden, according to a source familiar with the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details of the closed-door session. The president did not shake hands with the lawmakers or sit down, and he left before any of the Democrats spoke, the source said.
A White House spokesman did not respond to questions about that account of the meeting.
The stagecraft surrounding the president's statement was unusual. Reporters were rushed into the Rose Garden, where a single lectern had been set up in front of the Oval Office. It was not clear how far in advance Trump planned the move, but the president said he was angry that hours earlier, Pelosi accused him of engaging in a "cover-up."
Trump aides placed a sign on the lectern that included a favorite talking point: "no collusion," referring to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election. The president took two questions, then walked back into the West Wing.
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Back on Capitol Hill, Pelosi said she was disappointed Trump backed out of talks.
“For some reason, maybe it was a lack of confidence on his part, but he couldn’t come back for the greatness of the challenge we have,” Pelosi said. “I pray for the president of the United States, and I pray for the United States of America.”
Trump's meeting with the Democrats came three weeks after an unusual moment of bipartisanship, when they agreed to spend $2 trillion on the nation’s crumbling highways, bridges and airports. Still missing was a plan to pay for that investment.
Hours before Pelosi and Schumer were expected at the White House, Trump took to Twitter and accused congressional Democrats of being so focused on investigating him they weren't getting other things done.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump to Democrats: No deals on infrastructure, drug prices until they drop investigations