President Donald Trump on Sunday told reporters he doubts he will have to accept less than his $5.6 billion demand for his proposed southern border wall in any final deal with Democrats. And he again threatened to declare a national emergency to get his way.
“I don’t think I’ll have to,” he said over the hum of Marine One engines on the South Lawn.
But Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said her caucus will not give him any amount for a wall, as a partial government shutdown now in its 16th day showed no signs of ending.
Trump spoke to reporters on his way to Camp David, where he will huddle with aides about border security. Meantime, Vice President Mike Pence and other Trump administration officials are scheduled to meet with congressional aides for a second consecutive day about border security and what a final deal might look like at 1 p.m. Sunday.
The two sides met for over two hours in Pence’s ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building across the street from the White House. Pence again will lead negotiations on Sunday afternoon, and the president headed to the official White House retreat appearing eager to portray himself as involved in the talks.
“I’m totally involved. But I’m involved with principals,” he said. “Because ultimately, it’s going to be solved by the principals. Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and myself can solve this in 20 minutes, if they want to. If they don’t want to, it’s going to go on for a long time.
“I’ll tell you this: If we don’t find a solution, it’s going to go on for a long time. There’s not going to be any bend right here,” the president said, stressing about a border wall that the over 60 million people who voted for him in 2016 “are for it very much.”
Watch: Remember When Donald Trump Wanted Mexico To Pay for the Wall?
The role of his conservative base, without whom his chances of winning re-election are almost zero, cannot be underplayed in the shutdown standoff.
The president had indicated before nine Cabinet agencies and other federal offices ran out of funding that he would sign a bipartisan stopgap measure passed the Senate that would have kept those entities open through Feb. 8 to allow time for border wall talks; but he came out against that bill when conservative opinion-shapers warned him he needed to make a border wall stand since it was a top campaign promise.
After he gave little indication during a Friday press conference that he has sympathy for federal workers who are out of work and not getting paid, the president contended Sunday that those furloughed workers would “make adjustments,” as he assured reporters he has empathy for them and can relate to their situations.
What’s more, Trump for the second time in three days threatened to use his executive powers to kick-start a project to build a southern border wall over the objections of Democrats.
“I may decide a national emergency depending on what happens over the next few days,” he told reporters as he left the White House for Camp David talks with aides on border security.
But even some of his closest GOP allies, like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California say Congress still would have to approve any funding shifts to use already allocated dollars for his border barrier project.
As Pence gets set to meet again with congressional aides, some Democrats in the room question whether anything they discuss with the VP will hold once Trump gets involved or learns of any points of agreement.
Some senior Democratic lawmakers and aides question whether any weekend talks that might produce progress will be blown up as soon as Trump learns what was discussed or possibly agreed to.
“We’ve seen over the last few weeks that no one on the president’s staff - up to the vice president — speaks for the president, except the president himself,” one Democratic source told Roll Call.