Donald Trump abruptly ended a critical meeting with Democratic leaders on Wednesday, calling it a “total waste of time” as the partial shutdown of the US government dragged into its 19th day with no end in sight.
The further deterioration of negotiations over the funding lapse affecting nearly 800,000 federal employees came a day after the president used his first address from the Oval Office to reinforce his demands for a wall along the southern border with Mexico.
Donald Trump fuels immigration fears in TV address on ‘border crisis’
“Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time,” Trump said on Twitter, referring to the Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and House speaker Nancy Pelosi. “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!” Schumer, offering his version of events, told reporters outside of the White House that “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 we have nothing to discuss and walked out,” Schumer said. “Again, we saw a temper-tantrum because he couldn’t get his way.”
The meeting followed a closed-door lunch with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill, during which Trump urged Republicans to “stick together”. A handful of Republicans have expressed concerns over the longevity of the shutdown. At least three Republican senators – Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Susan Collins of Maine – have said they would support reopening the government without funding for the wall.
But emerging from the private meeting with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill, Trump showed no sign of backing down while threatening to declare a national emergency if a breakthrough is not found. “The Republicans are totally unified,” Trump said. “We talked about strategy, but they’re with us all the way.”
“He gave no indication of any willingness to budge an inch,” said John Kennedy, a Republican of Louisiana. “The president – and I happen to agree with him – believes that his only sin is that for the first time in 15 or 20 years he is actually enforcing America’s immigration laws.” The shutdown, the third under Trump’s watch, is the longest since 1995 and has forced the closure of national parks, placed certain food and drug inspections on hold, and sparked concerns over air travel.
Before their meeting with Trump, Schumer and Pelosi held an event with furloughed federal workers in a bid to highlight the impact of the shutdown.“To use them as hostages through a temper tantrum by the president is just so wrong, so unfair, so mean-spirited,” Schumer said. “It ought to end and it ought to end now.” Trump offered no new solutions at a nationwide televised address on Tuesday evening, but instead insisted that a wall was necessary to stem the flow of illegal immigration. In a speech full of false claims and misleading statistics, Trump painted a portrait of a crisis at the US-Mexico border even as the rate of illegal immigration has steadily fallen over the years and in 2018 reached its lowest point in more than a decade.