Mark Wilson/Getty Images (WASHINGTON) — Political fireworks erupted in the Oval Office Tuesday between President Trump, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi over border wall funding.
At first, the president welcomed Pelosi and Schumer into the Oval Office and discussed criminal justice reform while rattling off numbers about the proposed border wall. But things quickly turned into an open argument with the president eventually threatening to shut down the government over the border wall dispute.
When Schumer said to Trump, "You said 'I will shut down the government if I don't get my wall'," Trump shot back, "I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck. People in 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 won't blame you for it. The last time, you shut it down. It didn't work. I will take the mantle of shutting it down.
"I'm going to shut it down for border security," the president said.
Trump, Pelosi and Schumer were scheduled to meet at the White House to come to an agreement on border funding to avert a potential government shutdown. No agreement was made. Instead, three of the most powerful leaders in government went back and forth over the wall and border security for almost 13 minutes as the press, presidential advisers, and Vice President Pence looked on.
"We may not have an agreement today. We probably won't. But we have an agreement on other things that are really good," Trump said at the beginning.
The meeting began civilly and Pelosi thanked the president for the opportunity to meet with him "so that we can work together in a bipartisan way to meet the needs of the American people."
But then, the mood shifted.
"I think the American people recognize that we must keep the government open. That a shut down is not worth anything, and we should not have a Trump shut down," Pelosi said.
The president interrupted her.
"A what? Did you say 'Trump'?" the president said, before adding under his breath, "I was going to call it a Pelosi shutdown."
The White House, Republicans, and Democrats have until Dec. 21 to avoid a government shutdown over border spending. The president has continued to push for $5 billion in government funding for a border wall, far beyond the $1.6 billion the Republican Senate initially requested for border security.
"Let me say one thing. The fact is, you do not have the votes in the House," Pelosi said.
"Nancy, I do. We need border security. Nancy, Nancy. We need border security," Trump said, emphatically waving his hands.
Then Schumer jumped in.
"Mr. President. You say, 'My way, or we will shut down the government.' We have a proposal with Democrats and Republicans, that they will support, to do a [continuing resolution] that will not shut down the government. We urge you to take it," Schumer said.
Trump said he wouldn't take it.
"But you said it is effective," Schumer interrupted.
"Let's call a halt to this," Pelosi said, recognizing the meeting was going off the rails. "We come here as the first branch of government. Article I, the legislative branch, she said, referring to the Constitution. "We are coming in good faith to negotiate with you about how we can keep the government open," Pelosi said.
"We are going to keep it open if we have border security. If we don't have border security we aren't going to keep it open," Trump replied.
"You are bragging about what has been done. What we want to do, the same thing that we did last year this year. That is our proposal. If it's good then, it's good now, and it won't shut down the government," Schumer replied.
"Let's debate in private. Okay?" Pelosi said. "Unfortunately, this has spiraled downward."
The meeting was on the president's schedule as being closed to the press, but was opened up to reporters and cameras at the last minute.
"We came in here in good faith. We entered into a discussion in the public view," Pelosi said.
"It's called transparency," Trump said, in reference to the press packed into the Oval Office.
"It's not transparency when we are not sticking to a set of facts. When we want to have a debate with you, we confront them," Pelosi shot back.
The president said he wanted to defend $5 billion in border wall money, but Pelosi chimed in to say that as the new Democratic leader, she is coming to present a different view.
"Elections have consequences, Mr. President," said Schumer.
"And that's why the country is doing so well," Trump retorted.
"One thing I think we can agree on is that we shouldn't shut down the government over a dispute. You want to shut it down, you keep talking about," Schumer said.
"The last time, Chuck, you shut it down," Trump said.
"I don't want to do what you did. Twenty times you called for it, you said 'I will shut down the government if I don't get my wall.' You have said it," Schumer said.
The president said he would "take the mantle" for shutting down the government for the sake of border security.
"But we believe you shouldn't shut it down," Pelosi replied.
After the meeting, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders put out a statement saying that the president, Schumer, and Pelosi had a "constructive meeting," but added, "Major disagreement remains on the issue of border security and transparency."
Pelosi and Schumer said they gave the president two options. "It’s his choice to accept one of those options or shut the government down," the two Democratic leaders said in a short joint statement after the meeting.
In a gaggle with reporters outside the Oval Office, Pelosi said that their meeting showed that "This new Congress will be something different from the Congress we have now.
"We didn't come here to divide. We came here to unify. We extend that hand of friendship to him, that course of action."
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