President Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi engaged in a public and bitter feud today, with the president detonating bipartisan negotiations over the speaker’s accusations of a “cover-up” and Pelosi bluntly responding: “I pray for the president of the United States.”
The breakdown resulted in Trump declaring that he will not work with congressional Democrats as long as they pursue oversight investigations into him and his administration.
“Let them play their games,” Trump said in a heated 12-minute news conference in the Rose Garden after he abruptly called off the meeting about infrastructure. “We’re going to go down one track at a time. Let them finish up and we’ll be all set.”
The explosive encounter at the White House shattered the good bipartisan vibes emanating from positive budget talks on Tuesday, and startled attendees.
The Democratic lawmakers said Trump made them wait, complained about their probes, canceled the meeting and left in a span of just a few minutes.
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said it was “high drama in the Cabinet Room.”
“I don’t know where this leaves us as a nation,” Durbin said. “If the president walks out of the meeting, it’s a setback for the country’s priorities.”
Congress’ various probes have emerged as the chief source of the president’s irritation since the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report last month.
And the White House’s blanket refusal to comply with the inquiries has provoked more and more Democrats in recent days to call for the president’s impeachment.
Earlier today, Pelosi (D-CA) urged her 235-member caucus in a closed-door conference to back down from calls to oust Trump from office, though she told reporters after the meeting: “We believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.”
“This is very sad because this meeting was set up a number of days ago,” Trump said of the scuttled infrastructure session.
“All of a sudden I hear last night they’re going to have a meeting right before this meeting to talk about the ‘I’ word,” the president said. “The ‘I’ word. Can you imagine?”
Trump decided to hold the impromptu Rose Garden gathering later in the morning after he learned of Pelosi’s comments, according to two senior administration officials.
Speaking from behind a sign attached to his lectern emblazoned with the words “No Collusion” and “No Obstruction,” Trump praised his administration’s cooperation with Mueller’s investigation while admonishing the 22-month probe as “a witch hunt,” “a hoax,” and “a total, horrible thing” for the country that “hurt us in so many ways.”
The oversight inquires by Congress, Trump argued, were similarly illegitimate.
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also had their say, holding their own news conference in the Capitol shortly after Trump wrapped up.
“It wasn’t really respectful of the Congress and the White House working together. He just took a pass,” Pelosi said. “I pray for the president of the United States, and I pray for the United States of America.”
Somewhat surprisingly, Trump seemed to agree with Democrats on how the meeting went — a near replay of when he angrily left a meeting with Democrats during the 35-day shutdown and refused to negotiate.