Trump walks out of White House meeting with Pelosi and Schumer: "I said bye-bye, nothing else works"

"We saw a temper tantrum, because he couldn't get his way," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said of the talks

Published January 9, 2019 4:07PM (EST)

 (Getty/Photo Montage by Salon)
(Getty/Photo Montage by Salon)

President Donald Trump abruptly walked out of a closed-door meeting with congressional Democrats Wednesday in the White House Situation Room, blasting the negotiations as a "waste of time" after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she would not fund his border wall – even if he ended the government shutdown.

"Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time," the president then tweeted. "I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!"

Democratic leaders slammed Trump after the Wednesday afternoon meeting, accusing him of indifference to the plight of furloughed federal workers and of being unwilling to negotiate as the government shutdown nears the three-week mark.

"Unfortunately, the president just got up and walked out," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters outside the White House. "He asked Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi, 'Will you agree to my wall?' She said, 'No.' And he just got up and said, 'Then we have nothing to discuss.' And he just walked out. Again, we saw a temper tantrum, because he couldn't get his way. And he just walked out of the meeting."

Pelosi, speaking alongside Schumer outside the White House, alleged Trump was "insensitive" to federal workers who have had to look for other jobs as they face the reality of missing paychecks and the influence that will have on their lives. She also alluded to Trump's own privileged upbringing.

"He thinks maybe they could just ask their father for money, but they can't," Pelosi said. She added, "If you don't understand financial insecurity, then you would have a policy that takes pride in saying, 'I'm going to keep government shut down for months or years unless you totally agree to my position.'"

Nine federal agencies have been shut down since Dec. 22 while Trump and congressional Democrats continue to spar over funds to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, with Trump threatening to declare a national emergency to fund the wall if Democrats do not budge on their position. The shutdown appears to have no end in sight.

During a televised Oval Office address Tuesday, Trump stoked racial resentment of immigrants, using fear as a motivator to rally support for the construction of his $5.7 billion "wall" along the southern border, which he repeatedly promised Mexico would pay for on the 2016 campaign trail. He has demanded that Congress include $7 billion in border security and humanitarian aid — including $5.7 billion to fund the wall — in any spending package to reopen parts of the government that have been shuttered for nearly three weeks.

The president argued the wall was needed to resolve a "humanitarian and national security crisis on our southern border," as he portrayed immigrants as violent criminals. "How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?" Trump asked.

Before his televised address, Trump allegedly confessed in private to a group of news personalities that his upcoming speech and planned trip to the southern border would be pointless. "It's not going to change a damn thing, but I'm still doing it," Trump said, according to the New York Times.

Two unnamed sources cited by the Times claimed the president acknowledged, in an off-the-record lunch with television anchors before the broadcast, that he did not want to deliver the address or travel to Texas; rather, he had been talked into it by advisers. The president also allegedly conceded that his planned visit to the border was merely a photo opportunity.

"But these people behind you say it's worth it," Trump was quoted as saying, gesturing at his communications aides: Bill Shine, Sarah Sanders and Kellyanne Conway.

Trump's upcoming trip to the border was announced earlier this week – more than two weeks into a partial government shutdown he prompted as a means to secure funding for his chief campaign promise. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump would be traveling to the border to "meet with those on the frontlines of the national-security and humanitarian crisis."

Trump, for his part, admitted the reason the federal government remains only partially operational is because of his ego, confessing that he would "look foolish" if he allowed the government to reopen while wall funding was being negotiated, as hundreds of thousands of federal workers continue to work without a paycheck. Trump has not spent the majority of the shutdown negotiating an end game, instead blaming Democrats for a shutdown he previously said he was proud to own.

"I am proud to shut down the government for border security . . . I will be the one to shut [the government] down," Trump famously said last month. "I'm not going to blame you for it."

The president also alleged that the thousands of workers either furloughed or working without pay "are Democrats" — just days after he claimed that "many" of those government employees told him they were fine with not getting paid if Congress does not fund his long-promised wall. Both claims were offered without supporting evidence.

By Joseph Neese

Joseph Neese is Salon's Deputy Editor in Chief. You can follow him on Twitter: @josephneese.

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