A meeting Friday between President Donald Trump and newly powerful Democrats ended in varied descriptions of what transpired, with Republicans expressing fresh optimism a deal could be struck and their political opponents offering drearier views of a compromise.
Trump “said he’d keep the government closed for a very long period of time — months or even years,” according to Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who spoke to reporters in the White House driveway.
“Absolutely I said that,” Trump affirmed from the Rose Garden shortly afterward. “I don’t think it will, but I’m prepared.”
Later, two people familiar with the meeting said Trump even mentioned extending the standoff “to the election” and refused to back off his demand for $5.6 billion in funding for a border wall. He opened the talks by launching into a 15-minute salvo that also included griping at the House speaker for recent comments from Democratic lawmakers raising the specter of impeachment.
“We had a very, very productive meeting and I think we’ve come a long way,” Trump said, adding later: “We’re all on the same path in terms of wanting to get government open.”
“We won’t be opening until it’s solved,” Trump said of the debate over building the wall. “It’s a problem of national security. It’s a problem of terrorists.”
“We’re not doing it in pieces,” he went on. “We won’t be doing it in drips and drabs.”
Democrats were equally dug in, saying the matter of a border barrier should only be brought up once the government has reopened.
“We cannot resolve this until we open up government, and we made that very clear to the President,” Pelosi said after the White House meeting.
She described the session as “a lengthy and sometimes contentious conversation” but indicated there was some progress made.
“How do you define progress in a meeting?” she asked. “When you have a better understanding of each other’s position? When you eliminate some possibilities? If that’s the judgment, we made some progress.”
Trump said he designated a group of aides, including Vice President Mike Pence, Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, to participate in the weekend discussions, which he described as meant to “determine what we’re going to do about the border.”