Donald Trump has claimed that ongoing talks to end the US government shutdown are pointless, undermining his own negotiation team by saying only he could sort it out with Democrats.
“Ultimately, it’s going to be solved by the principals,” President Trump said at the White House before leaving for staff meetings at Camp David as the shutdown headed into its third week. A second round of discussions between administration officials and Capitol Hill aides was scheduled for yesterday afternoon.
“I don’t expect to have anything happen at that meeting,” said Mr Trump about the talks led by Vice-President Mike Pence and his son-in-law Jared Kushner. “But I think we’re going to have some very serious talks come Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.”
The president suggested that he, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer could solve the impasse over money for a US-Mexico border wall “in 20 minutes, if they want to. If they don’t want to, it’s going to go on for a long time”.
With Mr Trump insisting on $5.6bn (€4.9bn) for the wall and Democrats resolute in saying they won’t go along, Mr Trump reaffirmed he would consider declaring a national emergency in an effort to circumvent Congress and spend money as he saw fit. Such a move would seem certain to draw legal challenges.
Mr Trump also claimed he could relate to the plight of the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who aren’t being paid, though he acknowledged they will have to “make adjustments” to deal with the shutdown shortfall.
A day earlier, the president had tweeted that he didn’t care that “most of the workers not getting paid are Democrats”.
He said he planned to call the heads of American steel companies in hopes of coming up with a new design for the barrier he contends must be built along the southern border. Mr Trump had previously promised a concrete wall, but now says it could be made of steel slats. His administration has already spent millions constructing wall prototypes near the border in San Diego.
With the talks stalled, Ms Pelosi said House Democrats intended to start passing individual bills to reopen agencies. The first would be the Treasury Department, to ensure people receive their tax refunds.
Democrats said the White House did not budge on the president’s demand for the wall money. The White House said money was not discussed in depth, but the administration was clear about the need for a wall.