The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump says he’ll do ‘whatever it takes to get border security’ as shutdown looms

President Trump participates in a signing ceremony at the White House on Wednesday.
President Trump participates in a signing ceremony at the White House on Wednesday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

President Trump pledged Thursday to do “whatever it takes to get border security,” deepening an impasse over border wall funding barely a week from a crucial deadline for a partial government shutdown to begin.

In a video posted on Twitter, Trump attacked Democrats as “absolute hypocrites” and claimed they’ve supported funding border barriers in the past but won’t do so now because of their opposition to him.

The video showed images of people rushing the border and included clips of Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and former president Barack Obama speaking in opposition to illegal immigration and in favor of border security.

“We need to have the wall. We need border security. Whatever it takes to get border security, I will do it,” Trump says in the video. “I pledged that a long time ago, and I will pledge it always.”

The video had a caption saying “Let’s not do a shutdown, Democrats — do what’s right for the American People!”

The video came two days after Trump declared during an Oval Office meeting with Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that he would be “proud” to shut down the government to get the wall money he wants.

Since then, Democrats have attacked him relentlessly on the issue, with Schumer repeatedly accusing the president of throwing a “temper tantrum” as he threatens to lead the government into a partial shutdown in pursuit of what critics say is a costly and unnecessary wall.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) sparred with President Trump over border wall funding. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Trump is demanding $5 billion for his border wall for 2019, while Democrats are unwilling to give him more than $1.3 billion for border fencing. Democrats said Thursday that they won’t budge.

“President Trump is willing to throw a temper tantrum and shut down the government unless he gets his way,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “I want to be crystal clear: There will be no additional appropriations to pay for the border wall. It’s done.”

Funding for federal agencies including the Homeland Security Department runs out Dec. 21 at midnight, unless Congress passes a spending bill before then and Trump signs it. Other agencies affected include the Justice, Interior and Agriculture departments, totaling 25 percent of government spending that is controlled by Congress.

Other major agencies, including the Pentagon, have already been funded through September.

On Capitol Hill, confusion and uncertainty reigns about how the dispute will end.

Lawmakers headed home for a long weekend Thursday no closer to a solution, leading one key lawmaker to suggest that Congress might have to fall back on passing another short-term spending bill, kicking the can down the road once again because of an inability to compromise. The Homeland Security Department and other agencies are already operating under a two-week short-term spending bill.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) suggested Congress might have to extend funding until Dec. 26 or even Jan. 3 — right before a new Congress is sworn in and Democrats take control of the House. Shelby said other options could include short-term extensions until later in January, February or May, or all the way through the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30, which is the solution Democrats have proposed.

“We’re at an impasse,” Shelby said. “Something’s going to happen, or we’re going to have a CR or a shutdown.” A CR is a “continuing resolution” that extends government spending at existing levels.

However, Democrats said no one had discussed the shorter-term options with them.

House members are not scheduled to return to the Capitol until Wednesday evening, two days before the shutdown deadline, prompting sniping from some senators.

“I don’t understand why people don’t come to work and work all the way through December when the taxpayers are paying them,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). “I mean, finish your job.”

Trump also claimed in an earlier tweet Thursday that “money we save” from a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada would make good on his long-standing promise to have Mexico pay for the wall — an assertion backed by no verifiable evidence.

“I often stated, ‘One way or the other, Mexico is going to pay for the Wall,’ ” Trump wrote on Twitter. “This has never changed. Our new deal with Mexico (and Canada), the USMCA, is so much better than the old, very costly & anti-USA NAFTA deal, that just by the money we save, MEXICO IS PAYING FOR THE WALL!”

Mexican officials have said there was no discussion in the trade deal negotiations of mechanisms under which Mexico would pay for the wall.

Schumer and Pelosi both ridiculed Trump for his claim.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Pelosi told reporters at a news conference. “Maybe he doesn’t understand how a trade agreement works. . . . I think the Oval Office is an evidence-free zone.”

Pelosi, who is likely to become House speaker in January, also pointed out that Congress has yet to ratify Trump’s new trade deal.

Schumer, meanwhile, suggested on the Senate floor Thursday that if Mexico is truly funding the wall, Congress does not need to spend any money on it.

Trump spent much of the 2016 campaign promising American voters that Mexico would somehow pay for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a demand that angered Mexican officials but enthralled his supporters. Since becoming president, though, Trump has sought U.S. taxpayer money to fund the wall’s construction and threatened to shut down parts of the U.S. government if lawmakers do not acquiesce.

David J. Lynch contributed to this report.