President Donald Trump on Wednesday accused Democrats of playing politics over the partial government shutdown, saying during a cabinet meeting he sees Democrats as focused “on 2020.”
Asked how long the shutdown might last, Trump responded: “As long as it takes.” He also indicated to reporters he might negotiate with Democrats to a border barrier funding amount less than his $5 billion demand. Democratic aides have grumbled that he has yet to be clear about just what he would accept, helping to stall pre-Christmas talks.
Trump appeared to drive up his border wall demand when later asked if he would accept less than $2.5 billion in border security funds to end the partial shutdown.
“No, not 2.5,” he said. “The $5.6 billion is such a small number.”
After taking heat from conservative opinion-makers for appearing to back down from his demand for funding his border wall, Trump told Democratic leaders that he would “take the mantle” if nearly 10 Cabinet departments closed, but reversed himself as negotiations broke down over wall funding by blaming Democrats for the shutdown, which is in its 12th day.
The incoming Democratic congressional leaders, along with their GOP counterparts, are due at the White House later Wednesday for a Situation Room briefing on border security.
Asked what are his goals for the 3 p.m. briefing which will include Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and and incoming House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Trump replied: “All this is is to tell Chuck and Nancy … how bad it is, how dangerous it is, and why we need a wall.”
“I think the people of our country think I’m right,” Trump said even though while the wall is popular with his conservative base, polls show a majority of Americans oppose it.
“We are in a shutdown because Democrats refuse to fund border security,” Trump said even though Democratic leaders have floated over $1 billion in such dollars for the rest of the fiscal year.
As he did over the New Years Day holiday, the president again described walls in terms of barriers being among mankind’s greatest inventions.
“The wheel, the wall,” he said, “some things never get old.”
Vice President Mike Pence, Trump’s designated chief negotiator for a round of talks that failed just before Christmas, was among cabinet officials who praised Trump as he went around the long table.
“I want to thank you for the strong stand you have taken on border security,” Pence said. “We’re ready to deal. We have an offer on the table.”
That offer, however, includes $2.1 billion for border barrier funds and $400 million for other border security tools that Democrats rejected. Trump, in a twist, took to Twitter and mocked the equipment the latter fund would finance as just “fun” things to have.
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker also praised Trump for staying in Washington during the shutdown “while some members of
Congress went on vacation” during the Christmas-New Year holiday week.