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Pelosi criticizes Trump’s ‘petulance’ in shutdown ‘soap opera’

Speaker opens door adding DACA to negotiations if part of a broader immigration overhaul

Speaker Nancy Pelosi disputed President Donald Trump and Republicans’ account of Wednesday’s meeting on the shutdown at the White House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi disputed President Donald Trump and Republicans’ account of Wednesday’s meeting on the shutdown at the White House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A day after President Donald Trump walked out of a meeting with congressional leaders at the White House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi deemed the ongoing negotiations a “soap opera” in which the president is playing the lead dramatic role. 

“I don’t even know if the president wants the wall,” the California Democrat told reporters Thursday during her weekly press conference. “I just think he wants the debate on the wall.”

Pelosi criticized Trump for his “petulance” in handling the debate over government funding, suggesting his ongoing support for a partial government shutdown is all because he can’t get his way.

“If you have confidence in your own position, why would you say, ‘I have to shut down government,’” she said.

Criticizing Trump, Pelosi highlights the president’s walkout in weekly press briefing

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The speaker told reporters she’d like to correct the record on Wednesday’s White House meeting in which Trump walked out on congressional leaders after she shot down his request. The question Trump posed to her was specifically about support for the wall, Pelosi said, not border security more broadly as Republicans tried to frame it. 

“He said in 30 days will you support a wall, and I said no. He went out and he said something else,” she said, reiterating that Democrats support border security.   

“Not only was the president unpresidential — surprise, surprise — in his behavior yesterday …. The fact is that what the president is proposing is not the best way to secure our borders,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi said she talked about the impact the shutdown was having on government workers and their families during the White House meeting, telling Trump, “These people cannot go to their fathers to cover this cost.”

When Trump left the meeting after she denied to back the border wall, Pelosi said she believes he thought Democratic leaders would stay and continue talking with their Republican counterparts. 

“We got up,” she said.

Pelosi, who has previously said she would not back a deal exchanging permanent protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipients for the border wall, reopened the door to including DACA in the ongoing negotiations but suggested that it be part of a broader conversation about immigration laws. 

“We haven’t had that discussion. What we’re talking about now is just the president’s insistence on the wall,” she said. “We need to have comprehensive immigration reform.“ 

Pelosi said that Democrats have promised to protect the so-called Dreamers — young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, some of whom are currently legally protected by DACA — and can move standalone legislation on that would get bipartisan support.

“That is very popular in the country,” she said. “We can do that very quickly.”

But she added: “Comprehensive immigration reform is what this debate should be about. … Absolutely we always have stood ready to discuss comprehensive reform and of course the Dreamers.”

Regarding Trump’s threats to declare a national emergency to build the wall, Pelosi declined to speculate too much about what would happen if he did, saying, “Let’s see what he decides to do.”

However, she noted that it would be “irresponsible” and possibility upset congressional Republicans who have previously complained when presidents use executive authority to take actions on matters that should be addressed by Congress.

“I think he’s going to have to answer to his own party on usurping that much power,” Pelosi said.

Watch: Trump says no sign of GOP disunity, may still declare national emergency

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