President Donald Trump confirmed that he told congressional leaders he’d keep the government closed for a year or longer if Democrats refuse to provide more money to construct a wall on the border with Mexico.
“I did, absolutely, I said that,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday, after he was asked to confirm an account of a meeting by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. Schumer said after the meeting that Trump threatened to keep the government shut down for “months or even years.”
“I don’t think it will,” Trump said. “But I am prepared and I think I can speak for Republicans in the House and Republicans in the Senate. I hope it doesn’t go on even beyond a few more days. It really could open very quickly, I told them.”
Democrats demanded that Trump re-open the government before talks on border security proceed, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. Trump “resisted,” Schumer said.
“In fact, he said he’d keep the government closed for a very long time — months or even years,” the New York Democrat said.
Instead, the president directed Vice President Mike Pence, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to meet with top aides to congressional leaders over the weekend to try to resolve the impasse.
“We really cannot resolve this until we open up government, and we made that clear to the president,” Pelosi told reporters after the nearly two-hour meeting.
Trump called the meeting “very, very productive. We’re all on the same path in terms of wanting to get the government open.”
Asked whether he accepted responsibility for the shutdown, Trump responded: “You can call it the Schumer or the Pelosi or the Trump shutdown, it doesn’t matter to me. Just words.”
The government has been partially shut down for 14 days since Trump refused to sign spending legislation that didn’t include $5 billion to continue construction of a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico — his top campaign promise. House Democrats on Thursday ignored a veto threat by the White House and passed a two-bill package that would reopen all federal agencies without the wall funding president has demanded.
Senator Mitch McConnell said that Trump had agreed to direct his top aides to meet with aides to congressional leaders over the weekend “to see if they can come up with an agreement to recommend back to us and to him and the various leaders.”
“The government couldn’t reopen until Tuesday anyway because we don’t have people here to vote,” McConnell told reporters at the Capitol.
Trump has claimed broad public support for building a wall or other barrier that Democrats call a waste of money. The standoff has shuttered nine of the 15 federal departments and left hundreds of thousands of workers on furlough or working without pay.