Trump, Democrats battle over wall in Oval Office spat

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump's newest Russia adviser, Andrew Peek, leaves post: report Hawley expects McConnell's final impeachment resolution to give White House defense ability to motion to dismiss Trump rips New York City sea wall: 'Costly, foolish' and 'environmentally unfriendly idea' MORE on Tuesday engaged in an extraordinary argument with Democratic congressional leaders over government funding, threatening a partial shutdown if his demands for border wall money are not met.  

“I am proud to shut down the government for border security,” Trump told House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiREAD: House impeachment managers' trial brief Desperate Democrats badmouth economy even as it booms Pelosi offers message to Trump on Bill Maher show: 'You are impeached forever' MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump administration installs plaque marking finish of 100 miles of border wall Sanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change Schumer votes against USMCA, citing climate implications MORE (D-N.Y.) during a contentious, 17-minute exchange inside the Oval Office.

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“I will take the mantle,” the president added. “I will be the one to shut it down, I'm not going to blame you for it.” 

Trump's vehemence left Pelosi and Schumer exasperated, with both leaders pleading with the president not to debate the funding request in front of the news media.

“Unfortunately, this has spiraled downward,” Pelosi said, after arguing with the president over the need for a border wall and whether Republicans have the votes to pass wall funding through the House. 

“It’s not bad, Nancy. It’s called transparency,” Trump shot back after one objection from Pelosi, who appeared to anger the president when she accused him of wanting a “Trump shutdown” over the wall.

“I think the American people recognize that we must keep government open, that a shutdown is not worth anything and that we should not have a Trump shutdown,” the Democratic leader said in her opening remarks.

“A what? Did you say ‘Trump?’” the president responded, before whispering in Schumer’s direction that he had been planning to call it a “Pelosi shutdown.”

Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceSunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial Is Mike Pence preparing to resign, assume the presidency, or both? Pence to visit Iowa days before caucuses MORE was seated next to Trump during the meeting, but did not speak.

The combative exchanged raised fresh doubts about whether Trump and Congress can avert a partial government shutdown by the Dec. 21 funding deadline, as both sides appeared unwilling to give ground on their border-security positions.

Tuesday also marked the first time Trump huddled with Schumer and Pelosi since the midterm elections. The spat provided a glimpse of what divided government could be like for the president when Democrats take control of the House next year.

Trump sought to heighten the drama surrounding the funding dispute. The meeting was scheduled to be closed to the press but the White House unexpectedly opened it to reporters just as Pelosi and Schumer were arriving at the White House.

After the meeting concluded, Schumer said Trump will shoulder all the blame if the government does shut down. 

"The bottom line is simple. The president made it clear he wants a shutdown," he told reporters outside the West Wing, accusing Trump of throwing a "temper tantrum" in an effort to secure wall funding. 

Trump began the day by making his case on Twitter why a wall is needed while dialing back his demand for full funding suggesting the military could build parts of it.

Democrats said Trump does not have the legal authority to use the military to build the border wall.

“To the extent that he could do so at all, it would be reckless and irresponsible to waste national security resources on a border wall that is nothing more than in-kind contribution to his re-election campaign,” said Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyOn The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Senate approves Trump trade deal with Canada, Mexico | Senate Dems launch probe into Trump tax law regulations | Trump announces Fed nominees House Democrats unveil .35B Puerto Rico aid bill Appropriators fume over reports of Trump plan to reprogram .2 billion for wall MORE (D-N.Y.), who is expected to claim the gavel of the House Appropriations Committee next year.

Senate Democrats have noted that earlier this year, Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request Trump called top military brass 'a bunch of dopes and babies' in 2017: book Maxine Waters: Republicans 'shielding' Trump 'going to be responsible for dragging us to war' MORE testified he did not have the authority to provide funds for a wall.

Despite Trump's shifting rhetoric, the battle lines in Congress have been drawn for quite some time when it comes to the wall.

Democrats are offering $1.3 billion for border fencing and barriers, short of Trump's $5 billion request. The money would be included in funding legislation for the Department of Homeland Security, one of seven remaining appropriations bills Congress must pass before funding lapses later this month.

Schumer said Trump was offered two options to avoid a shutdown: a one-year extension of Homeland Security funding at current levels while passing the other six bills or passing a one-year extension for all funding covered by the seven bills.

“It’s his choice to accept one of those options or shut the government down,” Schumer and Pelosi said in a terse statement following the meeting.

Trump for months has threatened a shutdown over his demand for more money for a wall along the U.S. southern border, something he first promised during the 2016 election.

But the president has struggled to secure that funding. While Republicans have had control of the House, Trump needs Democratic support to get the 60 votes in the Senate he needs to pass legislation to fund the wall.

—Niv Elis and Alexander Bolton contributed reporting. Updated at 2:02 p.m.