Donald Trump abruptly ended a serious meeting with Democrats 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. A day after, Donald Trump headed to the US-Mexico border as part of his all-out offensive to build a wall.
“Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time,” Donald 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!”
Chuck Schumer, one of the top Democratic leaders in the Senate, told journalists Donald Trump”sort of slammed the table,” then “got up and walked out. Again, we saw a temper tantrum because he couldn’t get his way,” Schumer said.
Here on the border, aid workers had a message for Donald Trump: things are not as he says they are, and the people crossing the border harbor are not murderers and drug traffickers are he says many of them are.
“The truth is that a great number of percentage of people entering our country, asking to come in to the country, are not criminals: they are families, children, mothers, who really are asking for protection. They’re not coming here to hurt us but rather for us to help them,” said Sister Norma Pimentel, head of the Catholic Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas.
A 23-year-old Honduran who gave his name only as Kevin said he came with his toddler age daughter in search of a better life.
“We left because of the crime, because there is a lot of unemployment. The education system is bad and all of us, we parents, want a better future for our children,” he told AFP.
In Washington, according to supporters of Donald Trump at Wednesday’s meeting, the president asked Democratic leaders whether they would agree to fund his wall project in exchange for him ending a painful shutdown of swaths of government, which he has instigated in retaliation for the standoff.
“We heard once again that Democratic leaders are unwilling to even negotiate,” Vice President Mike Pence said.
The vice president insisted that Donald Trump came in good faith.
“The president walked into the room and passed out candy,” Pence said. “I don’t recall him ever raising his voice or slamming his hand.”
Donald Trump wants $5.7 billion to fund a wall he says is needed to keep out dangerous illegal immigrants, drug dealers and people smugglers from Mexico.
Democrats say the wall would have little impact on real border problems and that Trump’s tough approach has instead created a humanitarian crisis among vulnerable, unthreatening migrants. Trump’s main lever to exert pressure on Congress has been to refuse signing spending bills that cover large areas of government. As a result, some 800,000 federal employees and many more contractors have now been without pay for almost three weeks.
Democrats insist they will not lift their opposition to the wall, and believe Americans will tire of the shutdown chaos and blame Donald Trump.
But Donald Trump indicated Wednesday on a visit to Republican allies in Congress that he will continue to play hardball.
“Whatever it takes,” he told journalists, when asked how long the shutdown could continue.
Earlier at the White House, Donald Trump told journalists that if he cannot get his way, he could declare a national emergency — a measure that allows him to bypass Congress and take the wall funds he needs from the military.
“I think we might work a deal, and if we don’t, we might go that route,” he said, insisting he has the “absolute right” to declare an emergency, despite warnings in Congress that this could be seen as serious presidential overreach.
Before their meeting with Donald Trump, Schumer and Pelosi held an event with furloughed federal workers in a bid to highlight the impact of the shutdown.