House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that she believes President Donald Trump staged the high drama at Wednesday’s meeting between party leaders over the partial government shutdown.
Trump met with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for just a few minutes before walking out after the House speaker said her party would not agree to spend billions on a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
He left the lawmakers with a “bye-bye.”
“Not only was the president unpresidential ― surprise, surprise ― yesterday in his behavior, I think the meeting was a setup so he could walk out,” Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill.
Pelosi said she had wanted to stress that Democrats value border security in the form of spending on surveillance technology and other evidence-based fixes. The effectiveness of a physical wall is debated.
The partial government shutdown, now on Day 20, hinges on Trump’s demand for $5.6 billion for his pet infrastructure project, a promise that was central to his 2016 campaign. Trump has said that he is prepared to hold out “as long as it takes” for a spending bill that includes wall funding before fully reopening the government ― despite the toll on federal workers and the public.
Pelosi said that she believed the president was using the debate over the wall as “a distraction” from “his other problems,” which she called “unfortunate.”
“I don’t even know if the president wants the wall, he just wants the debate,” Pelosi said.
“It’s a luxury our country can’t afford under any circumstances,” she added later.
After the meeting on Wednesday, Schumer said that Trump threw a “temper tantrum,” going so far as to slam his hand on a table. Trump took issue with that characterization, denying that he acted out of anger.
“I didn’t smash the table. I should have, but I didn’t smash the table,” he told reporters on Thursday outside the White House.
Trump floated the idea last week of declaring a national emergency about the situation at the southern U.S. border in order to immediately move forward on construction of the wall. He renewed that threat Thursday shortly before departing for Texas to visit the border.
Pelosi said Democratic lawmakers were moving forward with legislation that would fund the government without a border wall ― something that would perhaps trigger the president to declare an emergency.
She urged congressional Republicans to support the legislative measures, issuing a challenge: “Did you take an oath to the Constitution or an oath to Donald Trump?”
The House speaker also criticized the president’s threat to withhold disaster aid funding from wildfire-ravaged California communities.
“You’re punishing your own voters,” she said, before turning her attention to Republican lawmakers from California.
“People died, communities were wiped out and they’re just cavalier about it because of the president of the United States,” she said.
This article has been updated with additional information.
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