President Trump said he’s prepared for the partial government shutdown to last months or even years, after a meeting with top Republicans and Democrats that was followed by an hour-long press conference in the White House Rose Garden.
Mr. Trump told CBS News’ chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett that he had said in the meeting that the shutdown could continue for over a year. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters after the meeting that Mr. Trump “said he’d keep the government closed for a very long time, months or even years.”
“I did say that,” Mr. Trump said. “I don’t think it will but I am prepared.” However, Mr. Trump said that the meeting with congressional leaders was “contentious” but “productive.” Mr. Trump reiterated that he wants $5.6 billion for the wall, contradicting members of his own administration who offered Democrats a deal with $2.5 billion for the border wall last week.
“It was a great meeting. It may get solved, it may not get solved,” Mr. Trump said of the meeting.
Vice President Mike Pence said he, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and top Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner will be working through the weekend negotiating with top congressional leaders from Capitol Hill. But a Democratic official familiar with the meeting said the phrase “working group” was not discussed in the meeting, although the official expected discussions will continue as they have been.
Mr. Trump said he would consider holding off on raises set for Pence and other top members in the administration while the shutdown continues, but didn’t agree to do so publicly.
When asked if he was still “proud” to own the shutdown, as he said in a meeting with congressional Democratic leaders on Dec. 11, Mr. Trump said that he didn’t call it a “shutdown,” but doing what was necessary to protect the country.
“I’m very proud of doing what I’m doing,” he said. He also reiterated his claim that money for the wall would come through revenues from the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which has not yet been passed in Congress. The president couldn’t specifically say which mechanisms will allow for taxpayers to be reimbursed through the agreement, should it pass.
Mr. Trump said that he could bypass Congress and call a national emergency and build the wall, but he has not done so yet. It is unclear, CBS News’ David Martin reports, how much of the Pentagon’s funding could be used for such emergency purposes.
“We can call a national emergency because of the security of our country. Absolutely. We can do it,” Mr. Trump said. “I haven’t done it. I may do it. I may do it. But we can call a national emergency and do it very quickly. It’s another way of doing it. But, if we can do it through a negotiated process, we’re giving that a shot.”
Mr. Trump expressed very little sympathy for the hundreds of thousands of federal employees going without a paycheck, saying many of them support his agenda.
“This really does have a higher purpose than next week’s pay,” Mr. Trump said. “And the people that won’t get next week’s pay or the following week’s pay, I think if you ever really looked at those people, I think they’d say Mr. President, keep going. This is far more important.”
Newly minted Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Schumer, speaking with reporters immediately following the meeting, indicated the meeting was not a fruitful one. Pelosi said she and Schumer had insisted on the need to reopen the government.
“We are committed to keeping our border safe,” Pelosi said after the meeting. “We can do that best when government is open. We made that clear to the president.”
“We made a plea to the president once again: don’t hold hundreds of thousands of federal workers hostage,” Schumer said, adding that Mr. Trump has said that he would allow a shutdown for an extended period of time. “So we told the president we needed the government open. He resisted.”
It’s unclear where Republicans and Democrats may find a compromise.
Pelosi says she won’t give Mr. Trump funding for his border wall —unless it’s just $1, she joked Thursday night — and Mr. Trump has already said he wouldn’t even accept the $2.5 billion in wall funding proposed by Vice President Mike Pence. The president won’t publicly say what figure he would accept. A senior White House official said Thursday that the president, Pence, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and top White House legislative aide Shahira Knight are all working on landing an acceptable figure for border wall funding. Mr. Trump insisted in Friday’s press conference that he wants $5.6 billion.
Democrats want Mr. Trump to go along with funding the non-Department of Homeland Security agencies, but Mr. Trump told congressional leaders in the Wednesday meeting doing that would make him “look foolish,” according to a person familiar with the conversation.
On Friday morning, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders didn’t close off the possibility of trading protections for so-called “dreamers” in exchange for wall funding, but said she wouldn’t “negotiate” in the press.
It’s unclear just how long this shutdown could last. Mr. Trump has said it could last a long time. Republican Sen. Richard Shelby said it could last “months and months.”
Mr. Trump also made a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room Thursday afternoon, hours after Pelosi had been elected speaker, attempting to make the case alongside border patrol representatives that his border wall is crucial to national security. He took no questions in his first appearance in the briefing room as president.