President Donald Trump threatened to shut down the government during a heated argument with Democratic congressional leaders in the Oval Office on Tuesday in a remarkable display of partisan bickering just 10 days before a partial shutdown is set to take effect.
“I am proud to shut down the government for border security,” Trump said bluntly. “I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it. The last time you shut it down, it didn’t work. I will take the mantle of shutting down. And I’m going to shut it down for border security.”
The remark came during an extraordinary 15-minute on-camera argument that began with Trump insisting that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) should help him fund a border wall. Trump has asked for $5 billion in border-security funding, but Democrats have said $1.6 billion is their red line.
At first, both leaders sat silently listening to Trump read dubious figures and repeat falsehoods about how much of the wall has already been built. When Pelosi reminded the president that he does not have enough votes in the House to fund it, the president pivoted and began boasting about his party’s electoral gains in the Senate.
“When the president brags that he won North Dakota and Indiana, he’s in real trouble,” Schumer said with a laugh.
“I did!” Trump shot back.
An exasperated Pelosi repeated to Trump that he does not have enough votes among House Republicans alone to fully fund a border wall, and Trump responded by saying he needs 60 votes in the Senate, where Republicans have just a 51-to-49 majority, to get anything to his desk.
“The fact is, you do not have the votes in the House,” Pelosi said, to which Trump insisted: “Nancy, I do.”
Schumer then confronted Trump directly over his exaggerations and mistruths about the border wall.
“We have a lot of disagreements here. The Washington Post today gave you a whole lot of Pinocchios because they say you constantly misstate how much of the wall is built,” a defiant Schumer said. “You have called 20 times to shut down the government. You say, ‘I want to shut down the government.’ We don’t. We want to come to an agreement.”
At one point, Trump jabbed at Pelosi, saying, “Nancy’s in a situation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now.”
Pelosi fired back immediately, telling the president, “Please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as leader of the House Democrats who just won a big victory.”
After the meeting, Schumer vented about the president’s tone during the sit-down. “This temper tantrum that he seems to throw will not get him his wall,” he said.
The partisan jabbing, which came during a photo opportunity before Trump was set to negotiate with Pelosi and Schumer behind closed doors, represented a preview of what to expect with a divided government next year, when Democrats officially take control of the House of Representatives.
“Unfortunately, this has spiraled downward when we came at a place to say, how do we meet the needs of the American people,” Pelosi said.
During the tense exchanges, Vice President Mike Pence sat stoically next to Trump and remained silent.
After the meeting, some Republicans began rallying behind the president. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a Trump ally, tweeted, “Great job sticking to your guns on border security, Mr. President! You are right to want more border security funding including Wall money. They are WRONG to say no.”