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‘Ill-Prepared’ Trump vs ‘Do Nothing’ Democrats: The Aftermath of an Infrastructure Meeting

May 23, 2019, 4:30 PM UTC

The infrastructure meeting between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and other Congressional Democrats was not necessarily expected to yield an immediate outcome. But rather than discussing how to fund the $2 trillion infrastructure plan, the meeting abruptly ended and has devolved into finger pointing in the 24 hours since.

Minutes after the meeting began, Trump walked out, calling an impromptu press conference in the Rose Garden, claiming that Pelosi had accused him of a “cover-up” and with the “phony investigations” ongoing, he was unable to “do infrastructure.”

The remaining participants stayed in the room, during which time Pelosi noted that Trump’s forebears had managed to bring people together to solve infrastructure issues, adding that she “knew he was looking for a way out.” Pelosi then refused to engage with a question from counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, telling her “I’m responding to the president, not staff.”

Conway fired back, “how very pro-woman of you.”

Following his nearly 10-minute address at the podium, Trump continued his assault of Pelosi and the Democratic Party on Twitter.

“So sad that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer will never be able to see or understand the great promise of our Country. They can continue the Witch Hunt which has already cost $40M and been a tremendous waste of time and energy for everyone in America, or get back to work….” Trump tweeted later Wednesday.

Returning to Capitol Hill, Pelosi and Schumer had words of their own.

“For some reason, and maybe it was lack of confidence on his part—that he really couldn’t match the greatness of the challenge that we have—he wasn’t really respectful of the Congress and the White House working together,” Pelosi said. “In any event, I pray for the president of the United States and I pray for the United States of America.”

Schumer alleged that Trump’s abrupt departure and address was staged, pointing to the preprinted sign that appeared on the lectern in the Rose Garden.

“Hello! There were investigations going on three weeks ago when we met, and he still met with us,” Schumer said. “But now that he was forced to actually say how he would pay for it, he had to run away. And he came up with this preplanned excuse.”

Later Wednesday evening, Trump tweeted a denial of an alleged letter Pelosi sent to House colleagues accusing him of having a temper tantrum.

“This is not true,” he wrote. “I was purposely very polite and calm, much as I was minutes later with the press in the Rose Garden. Can be easily proven. It is all such a lie!”

For her part, Pelosi doubled down on the cover-up claim at an event at the Center for American Progress Wednesday evening.

“The fact is, in plain sight in the public domain, this president is obstructing justice and he’s engaged in a cover-up—and that could be an impeachable offense,” Pelosi said.

On Thursday morning the tit-for-tat continued, with Trump spinning the foiled discussion to his advantage. Trump on Twitter accused Democrats of “getting nothing done in Congress” due to their focus on the results of the Mueller investigation, noting that it is “not possible for them to investigate and legislate at the same time.”

Trump went on to accuse Democrats of not caring about infrastructure or drug prices or veterans, tweeting that “all they are geared up to do, six committees, is squander time, day after day, trying to find anything which will be bad for me.”

“The Democrats have become known as THE DO NOTHING PARTY!” he added in another tweet.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders doubled down on Trump’s narrative, telling CNN in an interview on Thursday that Democrats in Congress are “incapable of doing anything other than investigating this president.”

Claiming that Trump entered the room “calmly, in command of the room,” Sanders asserted that the discussions were thwarted by Pelosi accusing the president of a crime and raising the possibility of impeachment hours before the planned meeting and then walking into his office and “[sat] down as if nothing happened.”

Meanwhile, Schumer told the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Thursday morning that Trump and his administration were looking “for a way to back out” because they were “so ill-prepared and afraid to actually say how they pay for infrastructure.” He pointed to a letter Trump had sent them Tuesday evening, requesting that they prioritize USMCA instead of the infrastructure plan.

When they realized “they had nothing to say” on the trade agreement, Schumer said, they “concocted this, you know, temper tantrum and he walked out.”

While the discussion may have been doomed from the start, the devolution in the hours since does not bode well for the crumbling bridges and roads across the country. If Trump and Congressional Democrats fail to reach a deal before the end of the fiscal year in September, infrastructure projects will take a hit, with federal agencies forced to cut billions of dollars on spending.

More must-read stories from Fortune:

—What would impeachment look like in Trump’s America?

—Bernie Sanders has a message for Trump on trade

—Trump keeps alluding to extending his presidency. Does he mean it?

—Meet the Republicans likely to challenge Trump in the 2020 primary

—Is the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization? Trump thinks so