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Politics

'Bye-Bye': Trump Walks Out Of White House Meeting With Democrats About Shutdown

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President Trump and Vice President Pence arrive at the U.S. Capitol to attend the weekly Republican Senate policy luncheon on Wednesday.
Alex Wong, Getty Images

President Trump and Vice President Pence arrive at the U.S. Capitol to attend the weekly Republican Senate policy luncheon on Wednesday.

Updated at 4:15 p.m. ET

President Trump abruptly halted spending talks at the White House on Wednesday, after congressional Democrats again rejected his demand for a $5.7 billion border wall.

On Twitter, Trump dismissed the negotiations as a "total waste of time," as a partial government shutdown stretched into its 19th day. He added, "I said bye-bye, nothing else works!"

"Our meeting did not last long," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters, standing in the chilly White House driveway. "It's cold out here, and the temperature wasn't much warmer in the Situation Room."

"Unfortunately, the president just got up and walked out," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., after Pelosi said the Democrats are unwilling to agree to wall funding.

"We saw a temper tantrum," Schumer said.

Vice President Pence blamed Democrats for refusing to give ground on the wall.

"In this brief meeting, we heard once again that Democratic leaders are unwilling to even negotiate to resolve this partial government shutdown or address the crisis at our Southern border," Pence said. "What the president made clear today is he is going to stand firm to achieve his priorities: to build a wall, a steel barrier on the Southern border."

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With the two sides at an impasse, some 800,000 federal employees are expected to miss their first paycheck, on Friday, since the shutdown began on Dec. 22.

"The president seems to be insensitive to that," Pelosi said. "He thinks maybe they could just ask their father for more money. But they can't."

Earlier, Trump met with GOP senators, urging his fellow Republicans not to waver in their demand for a border wall.

"The Republicans are totally unified," Trump told reporters after that meeting. "There was no discussion about anything other than solidarity."

The president insisted that a compromise is still possible, but he also threatened to use emergency powers if necessary to fund the wall.

"I don't think we'll have to do that, but you never know," Trump told reporters. "I really believe the Democrats and the Republicans are working together."

There was little evidence of that during the White House meeting or on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers from both parties traded barbs and blamed the shutdown on the other side's inflexibility.

Trump's prime-time address from the Oval Office on Tuesday appeared to have done little to change the terms of the debate.

Schumer dismissed the president's speech as "little more than a rehash of spurious arguments and misleading statistics that the president has been using for weeks."

"In no way did the president's speech last night make a persuasive or even a new case for an exorbitantly expensive border wall," Schumer said, noting that he is talking about "a wall that the president guaranteed would be paid by Mexico."

Democrats accused the president of using the shutdown to gain political leverage, while forcing Transportation Security Administration officers, food safety inspectors and Border Patrol agents to work without pay.

A handful of GOP senators have broken with their party and voiced concern about the shutdown.

"I don't like government shutdowns," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. "I don't think they're a good way to govern, and we ought to be able to get our work done."

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has not budged.

McConnell described the president's wall proposal as "imminently reasonable," and noted that Democrats have supported similar border barriers in the past.

"Steel fencing was fine, even salutary, when President Obama was in the White House," McConnell complained. "But it's 'immoral' when President Trump occupies the office."

McConnell blasted Schumer for holding up Senate votes on unrelated foreign policy measures during the budget impasse.

"Do Democrats want to hold everything hostage?" McConnell asked. "I urge my Democratic colleagues more strongly to get past this purely partisan spite."

Congressional Democrats are equally dug in.

"Democrats have consistently indicated that we are willing to substantially increase funding for border security," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. "But we are not willing to waste taxpayer dollars on a medieval border wall that is a fifth century solution to a 21st century problem. And we are certainly not willing to reward a presidential temper tantrum that has shut down the government for 19 days."

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., added, "I just think this is a situation where (Trump) is holding the American people hostage to a vanity wall fantasy. He should let that go. It's absolutely false that the border wall is the way to deal with any humanitarian crisis or national security."

Trump described the federal employees who have been furloughed or are working without pay as "terrific patriots" and has insisted without evidence that both government workers and the general public support his effort to secure funding for the wall.

"The people out there want something to happen at our Southern border," Trump said. "It's a very bad political issue for the Democrats. That I can tell you."

A Reuters/Ipsos poll published Tuesday found only about 4 in 10 Americans support the idea of building additional barriers along the border, and support has fallen since 2015. The same poll found 51 percent of Americans say the president "deserves most of the blame" for the government shutdown — an increase of 4 percentage points since a poll taken just before Christmas. Among Republicans, however, support for the wall is much stronger, with 77 percent approving and 54 percent supporting the shutdown as a means to that end.

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