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Border Wall Meeting Spirals as Trump Bickers With Pelosi, Schumer

President stands firm on $5B ask as shutdown possibility nears

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., argued Tuesday with President Donald Trump over his proposed southern border wall. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., argued Tuesday with President Donald Trump over his proposed southern border wall. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Updated 12:49 p.m. | President Donald Trump and top congressional Democrats bickered about his proposed southern border in front of reporters Tuesday as they sought to avert a partial government shutdown.

Trump grew angry at one point and threatened to shutter part of the federal government over the holidays unless Congress meets his demands, with the Democrats warning he would take responsibility for what they already are calling a “Trump shutdown.”

“I would like not to see a government closing,” Trump said. “We are on very opposite sides of … border security and certainly the wall.”

Later, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer told the president that “twenty times you have called” for a government shutdown. A few minutes later, addressing reporters outside the West Wing, Schumer flatly accused the president of wanting a partial government closure. 

Watch: Border Wall Meeting Gets Hectic Between Trump, Schumer, Pelosi

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At no point did Trump signal he is pushing for one penny less than the $5 billion previously mentioned for the border barrier.

If Trump sticks to that demand, “he will get no wall, and he will get a shutdown,” Schumer said after the Oval Office meeting ended. “We want border security. We offered him border security.”

Schumer said he and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi offered two options to cut a deal: passing a one-year Homeland Security Department continuing resolution and six other spending measures that have ample votes in both chambers, or a single stopgap for all seven agencies in the stalled package spanning the rest of the fiscal year.

“We hope he’ll take it,” Schumer said, accusing the president of throwing a “temper tantrum.”

Schumer and Pelosi were clearly frustrated following the much-anticipated meeting. Inside the Oval Office, Trump let his frustrations show.

As he did earlier Tuesday on Twitter, the president vowed “one way or another” he will get his proposed border barrier built. In a morning tweet, he said he might order the U.S. military to erect the wall, but congressional aides and experts say that would require congressional approval — and with Democrats taking control of the House in January, that is very unlikely.

The president also several times declared he is prepared to shutter DHS and the other federal entities next week unless Congress approves a bill with his demanded $5 billion to cover his wall project this fiscal year.

“I am proud to shut down the government over border security,” Trump roared over Schumer. “I will take the mantle.”

Trump also repeated the falsehood that the federal government already has begun building the concrete and steel structure he has proposed. What has gone up, experts and Democrats say, is fencing — sometimes with barbed wire.

The bickering started when Pelosi said there are votes to pass something to keep DHS and the other agencies open.

“I don’t think we should have a debate on this in front of the press,” the House Democratic leader said as Trump shot back that he needs “10 Democratic votes in the Senate.” She told him it is lawmakers who are experts at legislating.

“The fact is you have the votes in the House” for a border security bill, Pelosi said. Trump sharply disagreed.

Pelosi and Schumer sat apart on couches arranged on opposite sides of the room, with the Senate leader often moving to the edge of his sofa cushion closer to Trump, who sat in a yellow chair a few feet to Schumer’s right.

“We probably won’t have an agreement today,” Trump said as a Dec. 21 deadline looms.

Trump interrupted Schumer to say, “Chuck, you don’t want a shutdown” because Democrats were blamed last time.

Pelosi urged them to end the public bickering, saying “this is spiraling.” Trump said it showed “full transparency.” The argument continued as shocked reporters looked on.

“That was bonkers!” one journalist said as he returned from the Oval Office. “That was crazy,” said another with wide eyes.

“If we don’t have border security, we’ll shut down the government,” the president said. “A wall is a big part of it.”

Trump said Pelosi’s speaker race means she is less free to be candid with cameras and reporters. Pelosi asked the president not to describe her ability to speak on her own behalf.

As the others argued, Vice President Mike Pence sat beside Trump in his own yellow chair, mostly still as a statue.

Outside a few minutes later, the likely next House speaker accused the president of using statistics about border security that have “no reality to them.”

“I didn’t want to … say,” she told reporters, “‘you don’t know what you’re talking about.’”

What’s a Continuing Resolution? Decoding This Jargon as Congress Averts a Shutdown

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