The American government will be divided for two years starting next month. Judging by Tuesday’s squabble in the Oval Office, it won’t be pretty.
President Trump invited House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) for a photo op before the White House press pool, and then proceeded to engage in an at-times highly personal debate about how he needs border wall funding or he’ll shut down the government.
It was a lot of posturing and showmanship that may not ultimately be important -- Trump has repeatedly threatened government shutdowns -- but it was notable for a few reasons:
- Trump said, unequivocally, that he would take the blame for a shutdown (which isn’t how this is usually done).
- Schumer attacked Trump for his false claims about the wall already being built and for the GOP’s 2018 midterm election losses, and then Trump attacked Pelosi for her struggles to lock down the speakership -- both of which foreshadow a contentious two years of divided government ahead.
- Neither Pelosi nor Vice President Pence seemed to want anything to do with the spectacle, with Pelosi repeatedly urging those assembled not to debate in front of the cameras and Pence literally sitting silently the entire time.
Here is the transcript, with annotations in yellow:
TRUMP: Okay, thank you very much. It’s a great honor to have Nancy Pelosi with us, and Chuck Schumer with us. And we’ve actually worked very hard on a couple of things that are happening. Criminal justice reform, as you know, we just heard word — got word that Mitch McConnell and the group, we’re going to be putting it up for a vote.
We have great Democrat support, great Republican support. So criminal justice reform is something that people have been trying to get, how long, Nancy? Many years. Many, many years. It looks like it’s going to be passing, hopefully — famous last words — on a very bipartisan way.
And it's really something we're all very proud of it. And, again, tremendous support from Republicans and tremendous support from Democrats. And I think it's going to get a very good vote. And we'll see soon enough. But it will be up for a vote very shortly. A lot of years they've been waiting for it.
The other thing, the farm bill is moving along nicely, and I guess they'll be voting on Friday or so, but pretty close. And we think the farm bill is in very good shape. A lot of good things are happening with it, and our farmers are well taken care of. And again, that'll be quite bipartisan, and it'll happen pretty soon.
And then we have the easy one, the wall. That will be the one that will be the easiest of all. What do you think, Chuck? Maybe not.
SCHUMER: It's called funding the government, Mr. President.
TRUMP: So we're going to see. But I will tell you the wall will get built. We'll see what happens. It is not an easy situation because the Democrats have a different view, I think that I can say, the Republicans. We have great Republican support. We don't have Democrat support. But we're going to talk about that now. We're going to see.
One thing that I do have to say is tremendous amounts of wall have already been built, and a lot of wall when you include the renovation of existing fences and walls renovated a tremendous amount, and we’ve done a lot of work. In San Diego we’re building new walls right now. And we’ve — right next to San Diego, we’ve completed a major section of wall, and it’s really worked well. So a lot of wall has been built. We don’t talk about that, but we might as well start because it’s being built right now. Big sections of wall. And we will continue that. And one way or the other it’s going to get built.
I'd like not to see a government closing, a shutdown. We will see what happens over the next short period of time. But the wall is a very important thing to us. I might put it a different way. Border security is extremely important, and we have to take care of border security when you look at what happened with the caravans and the people and a lot of people. We shut it down. We had no choice. We shut it down. But it could be a lot easier if we had real border security.
I just want to pay my respects to the Border Patrol agents and officers. They've been incredible. The ICE agents and officers, they've been incredible, and very importantly, our military, our military went in and they did an incredible job. They have been really, really spectacular. A lot of the people that wanted to come into the country and really they wanted to come in, no matter how they wanted to come in; they were going to come in, even a rough way.
Many of these people are leaving now, and they’re going back to their countries — Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and other countries. They’re leaving. If you noticed, it’s getting a lot less crowded in Mexico. And a lot of them are going to stay in Mexico, and the Mexican government has been working with us very well. So we appreciate that. But they haven’t been coming into our country. We can’t let people come in that way. So that’s pretty much it.
TRUMP: We’re going to talk about the wall. I wanted to talk about criminal justice reform just to let you know how positive that is. I want to talk about the farm bill how positive that is, and I want to talk about the wall. And I will tell you, it’s a tough issue, because we are on very opposite sides of — I really think I can say border security, but certainly the wall.
But the wall will get built. A lot of the wall is built. It’s been very effective. I asked for a couple of notes on that. If you look at San Diego, illegal traffic dropped 92 percent once the wall was up. El Paso, illegal traffic dropped 72 percent, then ultimately 95 percent once the wall was up. In Tucson, Arizona, illegal traffic dropped 92 percent. Yuma, it dropped illegal traffic 95 to 96 percent.
I mean, and when I say dropped, the only reason we even have any percentage where people got through is because they walk and go around areas that aren't built. It dropped virtually 100 percent in the areas where the wall is. So I mean, it's very effective.
If you really want to find out how effective a wall is, just ask Israel: 99.9 percent effective that our wall will be every bit as good as that, if not better. So we’ve done a lot of work on the wall, a lot of wall is built. A lot of people don’t know that. A lot of wall is renovated. We have walls were in very bad condition and they are now in A-1 tip-top shape. And frankly, some wall has been reinforced by our military. The military has done a fantastic job. So the wall will get built, but we may not -- we may not have an agreement today. We probably won’t. But we have an agreement on other things that are really good.
Nancy, would you like to say something.
PELOSI: Well, thank you, Mr. President for the opportunity to meet with you, so that we can work together in a bipartisan way to meet the needs of the American people.
I think the American people recognize that we must keep government open, that a shutdown is not worth anything, and that you should not have a Trump shutdown.
You have a
TRUMP: Did you say "Trump?"
PELOSI: You have the White House. You have the Senate. You have the House of Representatives. You have the votes. You should pass it.
TRUMP: No, we don't have the votes, Nancy, because in the Senate we need 60 votes, and we don't have it (ph).
PELOSI: No, no, but in the House, you could bring it up right now.
TRUMP: Yes, but I can’t — excuse me, but I can’t get it passed in the House if it’s not going to pass in the Senate; I don’t want to waste time.
PELOSI: Well, the fact is, you can get it started that way.
TRUMP: The House we could get passed very easily, and we do.
PELOSI: Okay, then do it. Then do it.
TRUMP: But the problem is the Senate, because we need 10 Democrats to vote, and they won't vote.
PELOSI: That's not the point, Mr. President. The point is that there are equities to be weighed. And we are here to have a conversation in a (inaudible) way.
PELOSI: So I don't think we should have a debate in front of the press on this, but the fact is, the House Republicans could bring up this bill if they had the votes immediately and set the tone for what you want.
TRUMP: If we thought we were going to get it passed in the Senate, Nancy, we would do it immediately. We would get it passed very easily in the House. We would get it.
PELOSI: That's not the point.
TRUMP: Nancy, I'd have it passed in two seconds. It doesn't matter though, because can't get it passed in the Senate because we need 10 Democrat votes. That's the problem.
PELOSI: Well, again, let us have our conversation then we can meet with the press again. But the fact is that legislating, which is what we do, you begin, you make your point, you state your case. That’s what the House Republicans could do if they had the votes. But there are no votes in the House, a majority of votes, for a wall, no matter where you.
SCHUMER: That’s exactly right. You don’t have the
TRUMP: If I needed the votes for the wall in the House, I would have them in one session; it would be done.
PELOSI: Well, then go do it. Go do it.
TRUMP: It doesn't help, because we need 10 Democrats in the Senate.
PELOSI: No, don’t put it on the Senate; put it on — put it on the negotiation.
TRUMP: Okay, let me ask you this, just — and we’re doing this in a very friendly manner. It doesn’t help for me to take a vote in the House where I will win easily with the Republicans.
PELOSI: You will not win.
TRUMP: It doesn't help to take the vote, because I'm not going to vote the vote of the Senate.
TRUMP: I need 10 senators. That's the problem.
PELOSI: Mr. President, you have the White House, you have the Senate
TRUMP: I have the White House. The White House is done.
PELOSI: You have the House.
TRUMP: And the House would give me the vote if I wanted it. But I can’t because I need
TRUMP: Nancy, I need 10 votes from Chuck.
SCHUMER: All right, let me say something here.
PELOSI: Let me — let me say one thing. The fact is that you do not have the votes in the House.
TRUMP: Nancy, I do, and we need border security.
PELOSI: Well, let's take the vote and we'll find out.
TRUMP: Nancy, Nancy, we need border security. It's very simple.
PELOSI: Of course we do.
TRUMP: We need border security. People are pouring into our country, including terrorists. We have terrorists. But we caught 10 terrorists. These are over the last very short period of time — 10. These are very serious people. All of our law enforcement have been incredible, but we caught 10 terrorists, these are people that were looking to do harm. We need the wall. We need — more important than anything, we need border security of which the wall is just a piece, but it’s important.
Chuck, did you want to say something?
SCHUMER: Yes, here’s what I wanted to say. We have a lot of disagreements here. The Washington Post today gave you a lot of Pinocchios, because they say you constantly misstate how much of the wall is built, and how much there (ph).
But that’s not the point here. We have a disagreement about the wall.
TRUMP: The Washington Post
SCHUMER: Whether it's effective or it isn't. Not on border security, but on the wall.
We do not want to shut down the government. You were called 20 times to shut down the government. You say, I want to shut down the government. We don't. We want to come to an agreement. If we can't come to an agreement, we have solutions that will pass the House and Senate right now and will not shut down the government, and that's what we're urging you to do, not threaten to shut down the government.
TRUMP: But you don’t want to shut down the government, Chuck
SCHUMER: Because you can't get your way.
TRUMP: The last time you shut it down you got killed.
SCHUMER: Yes, let me say something, Mr. President. You just say, my way or we'll shut down the government. We have a proposal that Democrats and Republicans will support to do a C.R. that will not shut down the government. We urge you to take it.
TRUMP: And if it's not good border security, I won't take (ph) it.
SCHUMER: It is very good border security.
TRUMP: And if it's not good border security I won't take it.
SCHUMER: It’s what
TRUMP: Because when you look at these numbers of the effectiveness of our border security, and when you look at the job that we’re doing with our military
SCHUMER: You just said it is effective.
TRUMP: Can I — can I tell you something?
SCHUMER: Yes, you just said it's effective.
TRUMP: Without a wall — these are only areas where you have the walls. Where you have walls, Chuck, it’s effective. Where you don’t have walls, it is not effective
PELOSI: Let’s call a halt to this. We have come in here — the first branch of government, Article 1, the legislative branch, we’re coming in, in good faith to negotiate with you about how we can keep the government open.
TRUMP: We're going to keep it open if we have border security. If we don't have border security, Chuck, we're not going to keep it open.
PELOSI: I'm with you. I'm with you. We are going to have border security.
SCHUMER: And it’s the same — you’re bragging about what has been done.
TRUMP: By us.
SCHUMER: We want to do the same thing we did last year this year this year. That's our proposal. If it's good then, it's good now, and it won't shut down the government.
TRUMP: Chuck, we can build a much bigger section with more money.
SCHUMER: Let’s debate — let’s debate in private, okay. Let’s debate in private
PELOSI: ... that is devoid, frankly, of fact, and we can
TRUMP: We need border security. I think we all agree that we need border security, is that right?
SCHUMER: Yes, we do. We do.
TRUMP: Good, good. See, we get along.
Thank you, everybody.
QUESTION: You say border security and the wall. Can you have border security without the wall?
TRUMP: You need — you need the wall. The wall is a part of border security.
QUESTION: Can you define (ph) what it means to have border security.
TRUMP: Yes, we need border security. The wall is a part of border security. You can't have very border security without the wall.
PELOSI: That’s not true. That is a political promise. Border security is a way to effectively honor our responses.
QUESTION: And the experts say you can do border security without a wall, which is wasteful and doesn't solve the problem.
TRUMP: It totally solves the problem, and it's very important.
PELOSI: Unfortunately this has spiraled downward from when we came at a place to say, how do we meet the needs of American people, who have needs. The economy has — people are losing their jobs. The market’s in a mood. Our members are already
TRUMP: Well, we have the lowest unemployment that we've had in 50 years.
PELOSI: Sixty people of the Republican Party have last — are losing their offices now because of the transition. People are not
TRUMP: And we gained in the Senate. Nancy, we've gained in the Senate. Excuse me, did we win the Senate? We won the Senate.
SCHUMER: When the president brags that he won North Dakota and Indiana, he’s in real trouble.
TRUMP: I did. We did. We did win North Dakota and Indiana.
PELOSI: Let me say this — let me say this, this is the most unfortunate thing. We came in here in good faith, and we’re entering into a — this kind of a discussion in the public view.
TRUMP: But it's not bad, Nancy. It's called transparency.
PELOSI: No, and — I know — it’s not transparency when we’re not stipulating to a set of facts, and when we want to have a debate with you about saying — we confront some of those facts, we have
TRUMP: You know what, we need border security. That's what we're going to be talking about, border security. If we don't have border security, we'll shut down the government. This country needs border security. The wall is a part of border security. Let's have a talk. We're going to get the wall built, and we've done a lot of wall already.
TRUMP: It's a big part of it.
QUESTION: Is it everything that you need?
TRUMP: It's a big part of it. We need to have effective border security. We need a wall in certain parts, no, not all parts, but in certain parts of a 2,000-mile border, we need a wall.
QUESTION: How much money?
TRUMP: We are doing it much under budget. We are actually way under budget of the areas that we've renovated and areas that we've built. I would say if we got -- if we got $5 billion, we could do a tremendous chunk of wall.
QUESTION: Are you willing to accept less though, and are
TRUMP: Well, we’re going to see. We’re going to see. Look, we have to have the wall. This isn’t a question; this is a national emergency. Drugs are pouring into our country. People with tremendous medical difficulty and medical problems are pouring in, and in many — in many cases it’s contagious. They’re pouring into our country. We have to have border security. We have to have a wall as part of border security. And I don’t think we really disagree so much.
I also know that, you know, Nancy’s in a situation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now, and I understand, and I fully understand that. We’re going to have a good discussion, and we’re going to see what happens. But we have to have border security.
PELOSI: Mr. President — Mr. President, please don’t characterize the strength (ph) that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats, who just won a big victory.
SCHUMER: Elections have consequences, Mr. President.
PELOSI: Let me just — let me just say
TRUMP: And that's why the country is doing so well.
PELOSI: But the (ph) president is representing his cards (ph), and his cards over there are not facts. We have to have an evidence-based conversation about what does work, what money has been spent and how effective it is. This isn’t — this is about the security of our country. You take an oath to protect and defend. We don’t want to have that mischaracterized by anyone.
TRUMP: I agree with her. No, no, I agree with her.
PELOSI: So let us have a conversation where we don't have to contradict in public the statistics that you put forth, but instead can have a conversation about what will really work, and what the American people deserve from us at this uncertain time in their lives.
SCHUMER: One thing I think we can agree on is we shouldn’t shut down the government over a dispute. And you want to shut it down. You keep talking about.
TRUMP: I — no, no, no, no, the last time, Chuck, you shut it down.
SCHUMER: No, no, no.
TRUMP: Twenty times.
SCHUMER: Twenty times — 20 times, you were called for I will shut down the government if I don’t get my wall. None of us has said
TRUMP: You want to know something?
SCHUMER: You said it.
TRUMP: Okay, you want to put that (inaudible).
SCHUMER: You've said it.
TRUMP: You know what I'll say? Yes. If we don't get what we want one way or the other, whether it's through you, through a military, through anything you want to call, I will shut down the government, absolutely.
SCHUMER: Okay, fair enough. We disagree. We disagree.
TRUMP: And I'll tell you what, I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck, because the people of this country don't want criminals and people that have lots of problems, and drugs pouring into our country.
So I will take the mantle. I will be the to shut it down. I'm not going to blame you for it. The last time you shut it down it didn't work. I will take the mantle of shutting down, and I'm going to shut it down for border security.
SCHUMER: But we believe you shouldn't shut it down.
TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody.
TRUMP: Thank you.
TRUMP: We have a lot of great people for chief of staff. A lot of people want the job. A lot of people want the job. (Inaudible) a lot of friends of mine want it. A lot of people that Chuck and Nancy know very well want it. I think people you'd like. We have a lot of people that want the job of chief of staff. So we'll be seeing what happens very soon. We're in no rush. We're in no rush.
QUESTION: Why no rush. Mr. President?
TRUMP: Why, because we have a wonderful chief of staff right now. There’s no — we are in no rush. Over a period of a week or two, or maybe less, we’ll announce who it’s going to be, but we have a lot of people that want the position.
Thank you very much, everybody.