Trump, Pelosi exchange insults as feud intensifies

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Pelosi hits Trump, Netanyahu for 'weakness' amid tensions over Omar and Tlaib In Hong Kong, the need for peaceful persistence MORE (D-Calif.) traded barbs throughout the day on Thursday, intensifying the bitter back-and-forth that led the president just a day earlier to threaten he'd no longer work with the Democrats on their top legislative priorities.

Trump launched the skirmish early, saying the Democrats were pursuing “fake work” with their ongoing investigations into the administration — including those related to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony Kellyanne Conway: 'I'd like to know' if Mueller read his own report MORE's report on Russian election interference — and renewing his vow to eschew collaboration until the probes cease. That was all before 8 a.m.

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“When the Democrats in Congress refinish, for the 5th time, their Fake work on their very disappointing Mueller Report finding, they will have the time to get the REAL work of the people done,” Trump tweeted. “Move quickly!”

Appearing at her weekly press conference a few hours later, Pelosi responded in kind, hitting Trump on a host of issues that have strained relations between the sides in recent weeks. The Speaker accused the president of “crying out” for impeachment for political ends; waging “an assault” on the Constitution; conducting “a cover-up” to hide potential misdeeds; and ignoring subpoenas issued by Democrats pursuing the same investigations Trump wants to end — a case of obvious obstruction, Pelosi asserted, that could lead to impeachment.

“I do not intend not to honor my oath of office, nor do my colleagues in the House of Representatives ... to protect and defend the Constitution,” she said, vowing to push ahead with the investigations. “We can walk and chew gum at the same time; I hope he can, too.”

And she was just getting started. Pelosi also took an underhanded shot at White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayTrump health chief: Officials actively 'working on' ObamaCare replacement plan Campaign aide: Trump asking questions shared by 'millions of Americans' with Epstein conspiracy theory Former acting solicitor general: 'Literally unfathomable' that Trump would retweet conspiracy theory about Epstein death MORE, then suggested — tongue in cheek — that Trump's family and top aides perform “an intervention” to rein in the president's erratic behavior — “for the good of the country.” For good measure, she cast doubt on Trump's mental well-being.

“I actually, ardently pray for the president,” she said.

The remarks were not overlooked by Trump, who later raised questions about Pelosi's own mental fitness and capacity to grasp trade policy.

“I have been watching her for a long period of time. She’s not the same person. She’s lost it,” Trump said during an event with farmers at the White House, where he announced a $16 billion aid package for farmers hurt by his escalating trade war with China. 

The president described Pelosi as “crazy Nancy” and later called himself “an extremely stable genius” who is focused on advancing his agenda, while “do-nothing” Democrats are consumed with investigations.

“When the ‘extremely stable genius’ starts acting more presidential, I’ll be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade and other issues,” Pelosi responded on Twitter.

The volley of taunting attacks marks a sharp departure from the "Kumbaya" moment the pair had shared just three weeks ago during their first White House meeting on infrastructure, where Trump, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerAppropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid Colorado candidates vying to take on Gardner warn Hickenlooper they won't back down Trump ahead of New Hampshire speech: Lewandowski would be 'fantastic' senator MORE (D-N.Y.) shocked Washington by emerging with an agreement for a whopping $2 trillion package to shore up deteriorating roads, bridges, waterways and other projects around the country. In that April 30 meeting, the issue of Democratic investigations did not come up.

“Building infrastructure in America has never been a partisan issue,” Pelosi said afterward, “and we hope to go forward in a very nonpartisan way.”

The second meeting between the power trio, staged Wednesday, could not have drifted further from the first. The gathering was devised to allow Democratic leaders to glean Trump's proposals for offsetting the $2 trillion price tag of their infrastructure agreement.

The conversation never got that far. Instead, Trump blew up the meeting before five minutes had passed, furious at comments Pelosi had made hours earlier, when she accused Trump of being “engaged in a cover-up” by his refusal to cooperate with the Democrats' investigations.

“What they’ve done is abuse,” Trump said at an impromptu Rose Garden press conference immediately afterward. “Let them play their games. We’re going to go down one track at a time.”

On Thursday, Pelosi accused Trump of using her “cover-up” remarks as “an excuse” to abandon the infrastructure talks.

“We've been saying ‘cover-up’ for awhile,” she said.

Pelosi submitted three reasons why she thought Trump had walked out so quickly. First, the president has been goading Democrats into launching impeachment hearings, Pelosi charged, and he's grown frustrated that she's so far refused to do so.

“There's no question: The White House is just crying out for impeachment,” she said. “That's why he flipped yesterday.”

Second, Trump is up in arms, she said, over a series of recent court cases in which judges have sided with Democrats in their efforts to get disputed information from the administration to guide their investigations.

And finally, Pelosi suggested that Trump simply hadn't come up with the $2 trillion in infrastructure offsets he'd promised several weeks earlier. 

“I can only think that he wasn't up to the task of figuring out the difficult choices of how to cover the cost,” she said. “He was not prepared, and so he used some excuse to go out the door.”

Trump, for his part, has disputed the Democrats' account of the meeting, saying they mischaracterized his “calm” demeanor for political ends.

“I was extremely calm yesterday with my meeting with Pelosi and Schumer, knowing that they would say I was raging, which they always do, along with their partner, the Fake News Media," he tweeted Thursday.

Trump later repeated that point and underlined it during the meeting with farmers by asking several of his aides to describe his demeanor at the Wednesday meeting with Pelosi and Schumer.

How the escalating battle affects the viability of legislation and the pressure within the House to consider impeaching Trump is anyone's guess.

Pelosi at the beginning of the week faced calls from within her caucus to move forward with impeachment, something she has steadfastly resisted. The fight with Trump appeared to help her unify her caucus.

Pelosi said she's still open to meeting again with Trump, and she's hopeful the sides can find some agreement in future negotiations.

“We're dealing with a situation that is becoming more predictable,” Pelosi said, referring to Trump's unconventional negotiating style. “But I do think that we have a responsibility to try to find common ground.”