Just hours after saying he had assured congressional leaders he would not shut down the federal government in a few weeks, President Donald Trump — citing conservative radio and television hosts — on Friday said he sees it as good politics for Republicans.
Trump told Fox News in an interview taped Thursday night before a campaign rally in Billings, Montana, that aired Friday morning that he was — at least in that moment — inclined to shut the government down after Sept. 30 if he doesn’t get his way, but added: “I don’t want to do anything that will hurt us, or potentially hurt us.”
“So, most likely, I will not do that,” he said.
By the next morning, he appeared to be waffling a bit.
“I would do it because I think it’s a great political issue,” he said, noting conservative opinion-makers like Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and Sean Hannity say a a shutdown is “the greatest thing you can do.”
But he also said GOP lawmakers are pressing him to keep the government funded and open as Election Day nears.
“There are a lot of politicians that I like and respect and are with me all the way that would rather not do it because they have races,” he said Friday. “They’re doing well, they’re up. The way they look at it, might be good, might be bad.”
He made the remarks as Air Force One flew him and his traveling press pool from Montana to the Dakotas, where he is spending the day raising money for Republican candidates.
Trump also appeared to yield some negotiating cache with Canada as the two sides try to tack America’s northern neighbor onto a preliminary U.S.-Mexico trade pact. He admitted during an off-then-on-the-record gaggle that his threat to tax automobiles made in Canada is merely a tactic he likely would not use.
“I don’t want to do anything bad to Canada. I can. All I have to do is tax their cars — it would be devastating,” he told reporters on Air Force One. “If I tax cars coming in from Canada, it would be devastating.
“I do use that as leverage in negotiating, where they don’t want to give us some points,” he said. “I say, ‘That’s OK; I’d rather tax your cars coming in,’ and I win a lot of points because of it.”
The two sides have a just a few weeks to determine if Canada will join the deal, White House aides say.
Watch: Trump’s 3 Legislative Priorities Before the Midterm Vote