Trump: 'I can relate' to federal workers going without pay during shutdown

President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Dems demand Barr cancel 'inappropriate' press conference on Mueller report DOJ plans to release 'lightly redacted' version of Mueller report Thursday: WaPo Nadler accuses Barr of 'unprecedented steps' to 'spin' Mueller report MORE said Sunday he can "relate" to federal workers who haven't been paid during the partial government shutdown, which has lasted 16 days and counting, but insisted that the budget impasse is "a very important battle to win."

Trump spoke to reporters outside the White House before departing for Camp David for a meeting with advisers and other administration officials. The president repeated many of his arguments for funding his proposed wall along the southern border, which has been at the center of the ongoing shutdown.

Asked if he could relate to "the pain of federal workers who can’t pay their bills" after they were furloughed, Trump said he could.

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"And I’m sure that the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustments," he said. "They always do. And they’ll make adjustments. People understand exactly what’s going on. But many of those people that won’t be receiving a paycheck, many of those people agree 100 percent with what I’m doing."

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have been furloughed and gone without their salary as the shutdown stretches into its third week. Other essential government personnel, meanwhile, have been forced to work without pay.

Asked about reports of federal workers calling in sick, Trump said "they have to do what they have to do," but asserted the practice has not been widespread.

The president will travel to Camp David while Vice President Pence and his team remain in Washington, D.C., to meet with congressional aides to negotiate an end to the shutdown.

Trump told reporters outside the White House that he doesn't expect a breakthrough in Sunday's meeting, but that there will be "very serious talks" during the week.

The president has demanded $5 billion in funding for his proposed border wall, while Democrats have offered $1.3 billion for border security but said they will not provide money for the structure. 

Trump has dug in on his demand for funding, while offering shifting descriptions of the wall. He has inaccurately claimed parts of the wall are already being built and that Mexico is paying for it over time, while also insisting Congress must fund the project.

The president has said the structure does not need to be made of concrete, but could instead be constructed with steel slats, something he raised again on Sunday.

"The barrier or the wall can be of steel instead of concrete if that works better," he said, adding that he plans to reach out to the head of United States Steel and other companies to inquire about a design.