President Trump invited congressional leaders to the White House for a briefing on border security, the first face-to-face session involving Republicans and Democrats as the partial government shutdown entered its second week.
The briefing will occur one day before Democrats take control of the House and Trump gets his first taste of divided government.
It was unclear whether the Wednesday session would break the budget impasse — in its 11th day Tuesday — as Trump has demanded billions of dollars for a U.S.-Mexico border wall, and Democrats have rejected his request. Trump had campaigned on a pledge to build the wall at Mexico’s expense, a proposition Mexican officials called ludicrous.
Officials from the Department of Homeland Security are scheduled to brief the top two leaders in each party in the House and the Senate. “Border Security and the Wall ‘thing’ and Shutdown is not where Nancy Pelosi wanted to start her tenure as Speaker! Let’s make a deal?” Trump tweeted Tuesday.
In a televised White House session on Dec. 11, Trump said he would take responsibility for a shutdown over the wall as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said they would not support wall funding.
Pelosi responded to Trump’s “let’s make a deal” invitation by tweeting the president had “given Democrats a great opportunity to show how we will govern responsibly & quickly pass our plan to end the irresponsible #TrumpShutdown — just the first sign of things to come in our new Democratic Majority committed to working #ForThePeople.”
Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, Trump argued in a fresh tweet that the $5.6 billion for the wall included in a House-passed bill was “very little in comparison to the benefits of National Security.”
He also repeated his dubious claim that savings from a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada would make good on his pledge that Mexico would pay for the border wall. The trade deal has yet to be ratified by Congress and includes no direct mechanism to fund the wall. Trump’s argument has been widely debunked by factcheckers.
The shutdown began Dec. 22, and there has been no sign of direct negotiations involving Republicans, Democrats and the White House. Members of Congress left Washington while Trump remained at the White House, and each side blamed the other. Trump refers to the partial government closure as the “Schumer shutdown.”
On Thursday, House Democrats plan to use their new majority to vote through measures that would reopen nearly all of the shuttered federal agencies through the end of September, at funding levels Senate Republicans have previously agreed to. Those spending bills contain scores of priorities and pet projects for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
The Democratic proposal holds out one exception: The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees border security, would keep its current level of funding, with no new money for a border wall. The plan would also extend the department’s budget only through Feb. 8, allowing Democrats to revisit funding for key parts of Trump’s immigration policy in a month.
The president has asked for $5 billion in border money, far beyond the $1.3 billion Democrats plan to vote through this week. Trump, who tweeted his opposition to the plan Tuesday, has reiterated he had no plans to back down.
Word of the White House briefing was first reported by Politico.
The White House confirmed the invitation late Tuesday, but drew a hard line against what press secretary Sarah Sanders called the Democrats’ “nonstarter” budget plan.
Trump also used Twitter on the first day of 2019 to insult a retired U.S. commander in Afghanistan, sing the praises of an ultranationalist former aide and tell the United States to chill and “ENJOY THE RIDE.”
Trump’s cheery tone in an all-caps tweet welcoming the new year did not last the morning.
“HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE, INCLUDING THE HATERS AND THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA! 2019 WILL BE A FANTASTIC YEAR FOR THOSE NOT SUFFERING FROM TRUMP DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. JUST CALM DOWN AND ENJOY THE RIDE, GREAT THINGS ARE HAPPENING FOR OUR COUNTRY!” Trump wrote.
That may have been before he read all his mail. Trump went on to bash retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal over remarks McChrystal made Sunday, calling the president untruthful and immoral. “ ‘General’ McChrystal got fired like a dog by Obama. Last assignment a total bust. Known for big, dumb mouth. Hillary lover!” Trump opined.
McChrystal was forced to resign in 2010 after making disparaging comments about Obama administration officials in a Rolling Stone article. He had been a rising star in the Army, a decorated expert on counterinsurgency tasked with turning around the stalemated Afghanistan war.
Although McChrystal’s comments were made on ABC two days prior, Trump did not comment publicly until he responded Tuesday morning to a tweet from conservative commentator Laura Ingraham.
Ingraham had tweeted an article Monday headlined “Media Didn’t Like McChrystal Until He Started Bashing Trump.” Catching up to it Tuesday, Trump evidently agreed.
The president’s very first words of the new year were an endorsement of a pro-Trump book by former White House aide Sebastian Gorka. The former Breitbart writer, a frequent television defender of the president, quit or was fired in 2017 partly in protest that Trump’s first major speech about the U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan made no mention of what he called “Radical Islam.”
“Dr. Sebastian Gorka, a very good and talented guy, has a great new book just out, “Why We Fight.” Lots of insight — Enjoy!” Trump wrote.
Trump has been holed up in the White House instead of vacationing at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, as planned, because of the government shutdown and his standoff with Democrats over funding for a border wall.
“One thing has now been proven. The Democrats do not care about Open Borders and all of the crime and drugs that Open Borders bring!” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning.
In a second tweet, he said: “The Democrats, much as I suspected, have allocated no money for a new Wall. So imaginative! The problem is, without a Wall there can be no real Border Security — and our Country must finally have a Strong and Secure Southern Border!”
Trump also tweeted congratulations to newly inaugurated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a populist conservative who like Trump was elected to shake up the status quo.
John Wagner contributed to this report.