President Donald Trump vowed to hold firm on his demands for a border wall as the partial government shutdown entered its third week on Sunday.
The president told reporters as he headed to Camp David for a meeting on the crisis that shutting down the government is not something he wants to do, but that is necessary to “protect the country” since the Democrats will not cooperate on border security.
“I don’t like doing this. I have no fun doing this,” he said. “I was elected to protect our country. That’s what I’m doing.”
Trump not backing down on wall
Neither side has been willing to budge, with Democrats accusing Trump of throwing a “temper tantrum” and hurting government workers with demands for an ineffective and costly wall that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has called “immoral.” For his part, Trump has shifted from initially taking the blame for the shutdown to laying it at the feet of Democrats.
“This shutdown can end tomorrow. It’s really dependent on the Democrats,” he said Sunday.
Trump gave the comments as he was leaving the White House for a meeting with his staff at the Maryland presidential country retreat to discuss border security amid a blitz of high-level weekend talks on the border crisis that have failed to break the stalemate between Republicans and Democrats. Trump said he was hopeful that there would be progress this week, but the Democrats need to meet him halfway.
“[Sen. Chuck] Schumer [D-NY] and Nancy Pelosi and myself could solve this in 20 minutes if they want to. If they don’t want to it’s going to go on for a long time,” he said. But Democrats have played up the angle that Trump is hurting government workers for no good reason, though Trump is holding steady.
“I’m sure that the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustments, they always do, and they’ll make adjustments,” the president said. “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.”
Shutdown enters 3rd week
Trump’s comments came after another weekend of meetings between Republicans and Democrats failed to resolve a dispute over $5 billion in wall funding and the resulting shutdown that has kept nearly 1 million federal workers on furlough or without pay. The first week of the new year ended with no progress despite several emergency talks involving Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and top lawmakers.
Indeed, Trump met with Democrats at a closed-door Situation Room briefing last Wednesday during which Pelosi interrupted Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, saying: “I reject your facts.” Trump met with Schumer and Pelosi again on Friday for a discussion that Trump described as “contentious,” and weekend talks among leaders from both parties, led by Pence, did not seem to make any progress either.
Meanwhile, the Republican-led Senate has not taken up spending bills passed last week by House Democrats upon taking over the House that do not include the $5 billion in wall funding. Rather than negotiate on the wall, the Democrats are demanding that Republicans open the government without wall funding as a precondition for any further talks.
Some say that there could be a compromise between the parties to trade the wall for protection of illegal immigrants shielded by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), but Trump said Sunday that he would rather “have the Supreme Court rule, and then work with the Democrats on DACA. I want to help with DACA, but…it’s going to be before the Supreme Court very soon.”
Trump has also been more vocal about promoting his border wall at press events, making a surprise appearance at a White House press briefing last Thursday, his first ever, in which he stumped for the wall and left without taking any questions. Speaking at a Rose Garden presser after the Friday meeting, Trump confirmed that he had threatened the Democrats to keep the shutdown going for months or even years until they see reason.
He also warned that he could declare a “national emergency” to build the wall without congressional approval if necessary, a threat he reiterated on Sunday to reporters as he left for Camp David.
President Trump has also floated the possibility of shifting from a concrete wall to a steel construction as a concession to the Democrats, but he isn’t budging on the need for a physical barrier at the border.
“There is not gonna be any bend right here,” Trump emphasized Sunday.
On Monday, Trump announced that he will deliver an Oval Office address to the American people on Tuesday night to explain why the border wall is so important to keep the country safe, which will be followed by a visit to the border later this week.