Trump threatens to extend partial government shutdown for years

President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax MORE on Friday threatened to keep roughly a quarter of the federal government closed for years amid a dispute over border-wall funding, the latest sign the president and congressional Democrats remain far apart on resolving the two-week-long shutdown.

Trump confirmed after a heated, closed-door meeting that he “absolutely” told Democrats the shutdown could last more than a year, which was first revealed by Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law | Michigan governor seeks to pause Medicaid work requirements | New front in fight over Medicaid block grants House, Senate Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law Why a second Trump term and a Democratic Congress could be a nightmare scenario for the GOP MORE (D-N.Y.) following the negotiation session inside the White House Situation Room.

“We told the president we needed the government open,” Schumer told reporters on the West Wing driveway after the meeting. “He resisted. In fact, he said he’d keep the government closed for a very long period of time, months or even years.”

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Addressing the news media later in the Rose Garden, the president expressed hope that the shutdown would not last that long, citing what he believes is Democrats’ willingness to strike a deal.

Despite the Democrats’ description of the two-hour meeting as “contentious,” Trump called it “productive” and said he appointed a working group of top administration officials to continue talks with lawmakers through the weekend.

“I thought it was really a very, very good meeting. We're all on the same path in terms of wanting to get government open,” the president said during a news conference that lasted roughly an hour.

But the president refused to back away from what he called his “very firm” demand for $5.6 billion in funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats have repeatedly rejected that demand.

Trump also threatened to use emergency powers to build the wall, a move that would inflame tensions with Congress, where Democrats have taken control of the House, and raise legal questions about his executive authority.

“Yes, I have,” Trump said when asked if he is considering declaring a national emergency to start wall construction if he doesn't receive funding from Congress. “We can do it. I haven’t done it. I may do it. I may do it.”

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The government has been partially shut down since Dec. 22, when Trump backed away from a spending agreement that he was expected to sign into law, one that didn't include wall funding.

Around 800,000 workers across more than half a dozen agencies are closer to missing their next paycheck because of the funding lapse, and government services and museums have begun to shutter.

In one of their first acts in the majority, Democrats on Thursday passed a spending package that would reopen the vast majority of the closed parts of government while funding the Department of Homeland Security, which enforces immigration laws, through Feb. 8 to buy more time for spending talks.

“We cannot resolve this until we open up government,” Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump Democrats open door to repealing ObamaCare tax in spending talks Sunday talk shows: Lawmakers gear up ahead of Monday's House Judiciary hearing MORE (D-Calif.) said after emerging from the White House on Friday.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden: 'No party should have too much power' Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills MORE (R-Ky.) has refused to bring the House-passed measure to the floor for a vote, citing a veto threat from the White House.

Trump rejected Pelosi’s proposal to reopen most of the closed parts of government while wall talks continue, saying, “We won’t be opening until it’s solved.”

A Democratic official familiar with Friday's White House meeting said Pelosi and Schumer urged Trump to commit to reopening the government by Tuesday, but that he declined to do so.

While there were signs the talks have entered a new stage, Friday’s developments showed a breakthrough is not expected any time soon.

During two meetings this week at the White House, Democrats floated a series of alternative border security measures in place of a wall. They included beefing up enforcement measures at legal ports of entry, where the majority of drug smuggling takes place.

Trump cast their suggestions as something that Democrats wanted in exchange for the wall, even though Pelosi and others say wall funding is dead-on-arrival in the House.

Trump also appeared to dismiss the suggestion that the Obama-era program for young immigrants who entered the country illegally as children is part of the current spending negotiations, saying he is hopeful the Supreme Court will rule the program unconstitutional and therefore take away a potential bargaining chip for Democrats.

Despite the divide, both sides agreed to continue talks over the next several days as they try to find some common ground.

Vice President Pence, who spoke after Trump in the Rose Garden on Friday, said he would join the working group along with Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerDemocrat calls for investigation of possible 'inappropriate influence' by Trump in border wall contract Judge temporarily halts construction of a private border wall in Texas Mueller witness linked to Trump charged in scheme to illegally funnel money to Clinton campaign MORE and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump puts Kushner in charge of overseeing border wall construction: report Hillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills Minority lawmakers call out Google for hiring former Trump DHS official MORE.

The working group is planning discussions with congressional staff during the weekend, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyCNN Pelosi town hall finishes third in cable news ratings race, draws 1.6M Economy adds 266K jobs in November, blowing past expectations The Hill's Morning Report — Pelosi makes it official: Trump will be impeached MORE (R-Calif.) told reporters that leaders could return to the White House next week to revisit discussions.

The Democratic official familiar with Friday's meeting downplayed the significance of the working group, saying staff discussions will continue as planned.

The White House later said a meeting with staff from House and Senate leaders has been scheduled for Saturday morning.

"The news is that the president agreed to designate his top people to sit down with all the leaders’ staffs this weekend to see if we could come up with an agreement to recommend back to us — both to him and to the various leaders,” McConnell, who did not attend the White House news conference, told reporters at the Capitol earlier in the day.

Don Stewart, a McConnell spokesman, pushed back on speculation about the significance of McConnell's absence in the Rose Garden, telling reporters that the Senate GOP leader did not know there was going to be a press conference after the White House meeting.

He added that McConnell, who left directly after the meeting, would have attended if he had know that it was going to occur.

But McConnell’s absence nonetheless raised questions about whether Republicans are unified behind Trump and his demand for border-wall funding as some GOP lawmakers began to show frustration with the 14-day shutdown.

Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerHere are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump GOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements Overnight Health Care: House to vote next week on drug prices bill | Conway says Trump trying to find 'balance' on youth vaping | US spent trillion on hospitals in 2018 MORE (R-Colo.), who faces a potentially tough reelection race in 2020, said Thursday he would support ending the shutdown without funding for a border wall.

“I think we should pass a continuing resolution to get the government back open," he said. "The Senate has done it last Congress, we should do it again today.” 

Pence also called roughly a half dozen House GOP lawmakers on Thursday to urge them to vote against the Pelosi spending package, according to The Washington Post, amid fears at the White House about Republican defections.

Just five Republicans ended up voting for the spending bill that would have reopened the Department of Homeland Security for a month.

Trump, however, appeared to relish the standoff and seemed determined to keep the political spotlight on him as Pelosi and her Democratic cohorts received loads of media attention this week as they took back the House.

“I’m very proud of doing what I’m doing. I don’t call it a shutdown,” he said Friday.

The previous day he made his first-ever appearance in the White House press briefing room just hours after Pelosi took the Speaker’s gavel. He followed that up on Friday with the hour-long news conference.

“Should we keep this going?” Trump jokingly asked reporters standing in the Rose Garden, where the temperature hovered in the mid-40s. “Let me know when you get tired.”

Jordain Carney contributed.

Updated at 6:27 p.m.