President Donald Trump, increasingly in re-election mode, on Thursday labeled Democrats the “DO NOTHING PARTY!” a day after their leaders accused him of being unprepared for a meeting on an infrastructure plan and simply “taking a pass” on the issue.
But even as the president suggested dealmaking on major legislation is frozen until House Democrats’ probes end, a White House official signaled talks on bills that must pass to avert another full or partial government shutdown will continue.
Trump pressed Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California during a Wednesday Cabinet Room meeting to drop House Democrats’ probes of his 2016 campaign and business activities, saying if the investigations continued there would be no infrastructure deal. He later told reporters — after storming out of the meeting — that his White House would cease all negotiations with lawmakers after she assured him she would not order her committee chairs to stand down — though an aide later walked that back a bit.
The president took to Twitter Thursday morning, as the cable news shows discussed the presidential walkout, and said Democrats “are getting nothing done in Congress.” And his top spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, told CNN that Democrats are “incapable of doing anything but investigate the president” and being unable to “do two things at once.”
Sanders called it “lunacy” for Pelosi to hold a meeting with her caucus about impeachment against her boss hours before the infrastructure meeting then showing up at the White House “like nothing happened.” After that caucus meeting, Pelosi contended the president is guilty of a “coverup” of his activities before and after taking office.
“You can't go down two tracks,” Sanders told CNN. “You can't literally have a meeting like Nancy Pelosi did yesterday just an hour before she got to the White House where she accused the president of a crime, said he engaged in a coverup, and then show up and pretend like nothing's happened and let's just sit down and talk about roads and bridges. It just doesn't work that way. She knows that.”
Even though he pulled the plug on a plan to update the country’s roads, bridges, airports, tunnels and seaports — and presented an immigration reform plan last week that his top aides admitted had no Democratic support — Trump claimed in another tweet that Democrats’ efforts are “about a Re-Do of the Mueller Report, which didn’t turn out the way they wanted. It is not possible for them to investigate and legislate at the same time.”
The Democrats are getting nothing done in Congress. All of their effort is about a Re-Do of the Mueller Report, which didn’t turn out the way they wanted. It is not possible for them to investigate and legislate at the same time. Their heart is not into Infrastructure, lower.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2019
....drug prices, pre-existing conditions and our great Vets. 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. A pure fishing expedition like this never happened before, & it should never happen again!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2019
The Democrats have become known as THE DO NOTHING PARTY!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2019
To that end, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer told reporters back at the Capitol Thursday that Democrats would work with the White House on any issue on which the two sides have enough agreement to pursue deals. The New York Democrat also said the president did not come to the meeting prepared; Trump was supposed to present the lawmakers with his team’s plan to pay for a $2 trillion infrastructure package.
“We are interested in doing infrastructure,” Schumer said. “It’s clear that the president isn’t.”
“It's clear that this was not a spontaneous move on the president’s part. It was planned,” he said. Pelosi said the president just “took a pass” on the issue.
Sanders contended it is a “complete lie” by Democrats that they can investigate Trump and cut deals with him, accusing Pelosi of having “lost control” because she has “got the far left wing telling her what to do.” And the president minutes earlier in a tweet accused Democrats of doing little more than pursuing probes that “squander time, day after day, trying to find anything which will be bad for me.”
Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin fired back on the same network a few minutes later, saying “of course” Congress and handle probes and legislation. “Every president without exception has been subject to investigation of some sort, and every president hated it and discouraged it, and then went about the business of the office.”
He called the walkout a “carefully choreographed” act to take political shots at House Democrats, adding that is “not how you govern.”
Trump and his surrogates already are making the House Democrats’ investigations a 2020 campaign issue. For instance, he used mentions and rants about them as a trigger to get loud boos from a friendly crowd Monday night in deep-red Lycoming County, Pennsylvania.
At a campaign rally in an airport hangar, Trump revved the audience by railing against “phony Russian hoaxes and witch hunts and people that hate Trump and hate you,” labeling Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s staff and Pelosi’s caucus as “angry Democrats all after us with all of it and they still have it's like little embers that are burning. They are going crazy because when the Mueller report was finished it said no collusion. They went crazy.”
He went on to accuse Pelosi and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, also of California, with playing a “game” because they “knew” — despite their public comments to the contrary — “there was no collusion.”
“They are smart people. Everyone from Schiff to [House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold] Nadler to Schumer to Pelosi,” he said as the crowd booed. “They all knew there was no collusion.”
But even as Trump and Sanders signaled major legislative dealmaking could be on ice until after Election Day 2020 — or perhaps beyond if Democrats hold the House and continue any still-ongoing investigations — one White House official said there will continue to be negotiations on must-pass legislation.
“You’ve got to fund the government,” the same official replied when asked if all White House legislative negotiations with Capitol Hill are effective frozen.
The president told reporters he assured Pelosi and Schumer that on infrastructure “I want to do it more than you want to do it.” He has talked about how much the country needs such a massive overhaul to boost the economy and create jobs.
That means his Cabinet Room walkout creates tricky optics, even if the president claims he is freezing work with Congress because House Democrats are “abusing” their powers.
Sanders said the White House and Democrats “can’t go down two tracks at a time,” even though Trump White House officials — like aides in previous White Houses — have assured reporters they can focus on two things at once.
Asked how Trump shutting down legislative work with Congress over his dispute with House Democrats about their investigations of his 2016 campaign and business activities does not amount to Trump putting himself over the needs of the country, a White House official said the opposition party only wants to slip “razor blades” to the president.
“We can walk and chew gum at the same time, but the people who give us gum are putting razor blades in it,” a White House official said Wednesday. “The House Democrats have no interest in walking or chewing gum.”
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