Trump walks out on Dems
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump stalked out of a White House meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday, flatly declaring he would no longer work with Democrats unless they drop all investigations in the aftermath of the special counsel’s Trump-Russia report.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it all “very, very, very strange” and said she was praying for Trump and the nation. Trump tweeted his thanks for her prayers but said he would not proceed down two tracks — investigation and legislation.
Democrats said his ultimatum seemed scripted, with signs declaring his innocence already prepared for his outdoor remarks that followed. Yet Trump’s unease with congressional oversight and talk of what he called the “i-word” — impeachment — now threatens to deprive him of legislative accomplishments for the remainder of his term.
The scene playing out live on television was reminiscent of earlier ones at the White House, including during the federal government shutdown, when Trump walked out on Democrats. While this standoff could benefit him politically in the short term, with his tough talk stirring up supporters, it leaves his trade deals, a new budget and other goals in jeopardy as he heads into a re-election campaign. Democrats called it another Trump temper tantrum.
“I want to do infrastructure,” Trump said he told Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, noting the scheduled topic of the meeting.
“But you know what? We can’t do it under these circumstances,” he said he told them. “So get these phony investigations over.”
Without ever shaking anyone’s hand, or even taking a seat, Trump turned and left the three-minute meeting. He strode to the Rose Garden where reporters and TV cameras had been assembled and proceeded to assail the Democrats, particularly Pelosi for her comment earlier in the morning on Capitol Hill that she believed the president was engaged in a “cover-up” of the Russia probe.
“I don’t do cover-ups,” Trump fumed.
Back on Capitol Hill, Pelosi said Trump “just took a pass” on working on national infrastructure problems.
Flanked by Schumer and other House and Senate leaders, Pelosi said the Democrats had gone to the White House “to give this president the opportunity to have a signature infrastructure initiative.”
The meeting had been set weeks ago, after Trump and the Democratic leaders agreed to talk further about a possible $2 trillion infrastructure proposal. Democrats have been working with the president’s daughter Ivanka, and Trump was due to provide his ideas on how to pay for it.
But he told them he couldn’t engage on infrastructure because Pelosi said “something terrible,” according to an administration official and another person familiar with what happened in the room.
Democrats said they doubted he actually was ever going to put forward a plan. Schumer — who brought his own 35-page proposal to the meeting — said that when Trump “was forced to say how he would pay for it he had to run away.”