House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Vice President Mike Pence, President Donald Trump, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., argue during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, in Washington.
Evan Vucci/AP Photo

After publicly bickering with Dems, Trump moves toward shutdown

Donald Trump this morning published a series of tweets about immigration, boasting that the United States’ Southern border is “now secure and will stay that way.” The president added that if Congress fails to finance his proposed border wall, he’ll use the military to achieve his goals.

Putting aside Trump’s confusion, the missives seemed to send an important signal: with 10 days remaining before the next government shutdown deadline, the president seemed to be backing away from his hardline stance. Since Trump doesn’t have the votes in Congress to get what he wants, the retreat made sense.

It was, however, temporary.

President Donald Trump and Democrats Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi bickered at length on Tuesday in an explosive public meeting at the White House over the president’s promised border wall and threat to shut down the government if Congress doesn’t fund it.

“If we don’t get what we want one way or the other…I will shut down the government,” Trump said during a highly unusual fight that played out in front of the press before the official meeting began. “I am proud to shut down the government for border security…. I will take the mantle of shutting it down.”

For those who haven’t seen footage of similar meetings, what usually happens in normal administrations is that a president will welcome a party’s congressional leaders to the Oval Office, they’ll exchange some pleasantries, they’ll briefly tell reporters about the topic of the day’s negotiations, and then the talks will begin in earnest after journalists leave the room.

In other words, these are usually polite photo-ops. The fireworks begin once elected policymakers are alone.

As we saw this morning, however, in Trump’s White House, we don’t always have to wait for the drama.

The president began at the outset by lying about border wall construction that he insists has already happened, despite reality. Schumer called him out on this, and the president clearly didn’t appreciate being accurately fact-checked on the spot.

The Democratic leaders proceeded to remind Trump that he’s both claiming credit for securing the border and insisting that he needs a border wall to secure the border.

The president didn’t appreciate this, either.

Pelosi went on to remind Trump about his party having lost control of the House, which led the president to push back by pointing to the Senate. “When the president brags that he won North Dakota and Indiana, he’s in real trouble,” Schumer responded.

When the president said soon after, in apparent reference to Pelosi’s efforts to nail down the necessary votes to become Speaker, “I also know that, you know, Nancy’s in a situation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now.” Pelosi responded, “Please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting.”

It was soon after that the Democratic leaders baited the president into embracing credit for a government shutdown that Trump is apparently ready to begin next week – in the process, making it impossible for Republicans to credibly blame Dems if/when there is a shutdown.

If the president thinks this meeting went well for him, he’s badly confused. If this were a wrestling match, Schumer and Pelosi tag-teamed Trump until he was spinning in circles.

The next two years are going to be awfully unpleasant for the White House.