Trump threatens to extend partial government shutdown for years

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocratic senator rips Trump's 'let them fight' remarks: 'Enough is enough' Warren warns Facebook may help reelect Trump 'and profit off of it' Trump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' 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 SchumerTrump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' Mattis responds to Trump criticism: 'I guess I'm the Meryl Streep of generals' Democrats vow to push for repeal of other Trump rules after loss on power plant rollback 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 PelosiDemocratic senator rips Trump's 'let them fight' remarks: 'Enough is enough' Trump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' Mattis responds to Trump criticism: 'I guess I'm the Meryl Streep of generals' MORE (D-Calif.) said after emerging from the White House on Friday.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pence says Turkey agrees to ceasefire | Senators vow to move forward with Turkey sanctions | Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe On The Money: Senate fails to override Trump veto over border emergency | Trump resort to host G-7 next year | Senators to push Turkey sanctions despite ceasefire | McConnell tees up funding votes McConnell tees up government funding votes amid stalemate 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 KushnerButtigieg knocks Trump as a 'walking conflict of interest' Biden's weak response to Trump is a lesson for Democratic candidates Mark Hamill zings Ivanka Trump for 'Star Wars' tweet MORE and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump confirms Rick Perry to step down as Energy secretary Trump says acting Homeland Security chief McAleenan will step down Activists to demonstrate at ICE headquarters after Cameroonian immigrant dies in custody MORE.

The working group is planning discussions with congressional staff during the weekend, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyRepublicans seek to delay effort to censure Schiff after Cummings' death House leaders offer tributes from floor to Elijah Cummings The comments and actions of Schiff demand his formal censure 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 GardnerBennet reintroduces bill to ban lawmakers from becoming lobbyists GOP warns Graham letter to Pelosi on impeachment could 'backfire' The Hill's Morning Report - Dem debate contenders take aim at Warren 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.