Trump Spars With Pelosi And Schumer Over Border Wall Funding President Trump and Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer quarreled openly at the White House over border wall funding. Trump said he'd take ownership over any government shutdown.
NPR logo

Trump Spars With Pelosi And Schumer Over Border Wall Funding

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/675820204/675820205" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Trump Spars With Pelosi And Schumer Over Border Wall Funding

Trump Spars With Pelosi And Schumer Over Border Wall Funding

Trump Spars With Pelosi And Schumer Over Border Wall Funding

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/675820204/675820205" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

President Trump and Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer quarreled openly at the White House over border wall funding. Trump said he'd take ownership over any government shutdown.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

I'm Audie Cornish in Washington, where, today, the president and top Democrats let their true feelings be known.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NANCY PELOSI: The fact is, you do not have the votes in the House.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Nancy, I do, and we need border security.

PELOSI: Well, let's take the vote, and we'll find out.

TRUMP: Nancy - Nancy...

CHUCK SCHUMER: And the experts say you can do border security without a wall, which is wasteful and doesn't solve the problem.

TRUMP: It totally solves the problem.

CORNISH: That was, of course, President Trump along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Their meeting at the White House was to discuss funding the government. The major sticking point is money for the president's border wall. That fight is holding up legislation to avoid a partial government shutdown. From the start, there were signs the meeting was not going to go well.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PELOSI: I think the American people recognize that we must keep government open, that a shutdown is not worth anything, and that you should not have a Trump shutdown. Are you having a...

TRUMP: What - did you say Trump?

(CROSSTALK)

CORNISH: Right. She did say a Trump shutdown. A short while later came this exchange, as Schumer and Trump debated who'd be to blame if a shutdown happened.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: And...

SCHUMER: Twenty times...

TRUMP: I don't want to do what you did.

SCHUMER: Twenty times...

TRUMP: Chuck.

SCHUMER: ...You were called for I will shut down the government if I don't get my wall. None of us have said...

TRUMP: You want to know something?

SCHUMER: You said it.

TRUMP: OK, you want to put that in my...

SCHUMER: You said it.

TRUMP: I'll take it.

SCHUMER: OK, good.

TRUMP: You know what I'll say? Yes, if we don't get what we want, one way or the other - whether it's through you, through a military, through anything you want to call - I will shut down the government...

SCHUMER: OK.

TRUMP: ...Absolutely.

SCHUMER: OK, fair enough.

TRUMP: And I am proud.

SCHUMER: We disagree.

TRUMP: And I'll tell you what...

SCHUMER: We disagree.

TRUMP: ...I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck.

SHAPIRO: Well, to dig into this friendly day in Washington, we are joined now by NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Hi, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, there.

SHAPIRO: And NPR's Kelsey Snell on Capitol Hill. Hi, Kelsey

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hey, there.

SHAPIRO: Well, Kelsey, to start with you, the Democrats went into this knowing it was going to be a negotiation. Did they have a plan from the outset?

SNELL: Well, I asked Schumer this at a press conference that he did a little bit later, and he said their really only plan that they had was to go in and offer Trump a couple of options for keeping the government open and funding the Department of Homeland Security.

He repeatedly said - Schumer repeatedly said that they went in there expecting this to be a closed-door meeting, not something with cameras present. And they really didn't expect to be fighting with the president in front of an audience of the whole country.

SHAPIRO: But this is not the first time the president has made a meeting like this public, right, Mara?

LIASSON: No, it's not. In the past, he has invited cameras in, and the idea is to show that he's in charge or he's making deals - bipartisan deals with members of Congress. But this time, it didn't work out like that. He looked like a man without a plan. He seemed to be backed into a corner by the Democrats to admitting, yes, I will shut down the government if I don't get what I want, which is quite unpopular. And he didn't really seem like he had a strategy for this meeting.

SHAPIRO: And as we heard by the end, he said, I am proud to shut down the government for border security, accepting ownership of that. So, Kelsey, how does this change negotiations in Congress where you are?

SNELL: Well, it's really different than what Republicans were saying just a few hours earlier. House Speaker Paul Ryan and his House Republican counterparts were talking about a Schumer shutdown not even an hour and a half before this happened. And they basically can't claim that anymore.

The president has said that if this - if a shutdown happens, it will be entirely on him. Now, that means that Republicans will have to convince him to change his position. And as we know, that is not something the president likes. He doesn't like to give up this moment of theater. But that's not how you usually negotiate things in Washington.

LIASSON: And the other thing the president did is he toggled back and forth between saying, quote, "a lot of the wall" is already built; it's been very effective; it's cut illegal immigration by something like 92 percent in certain areas, which of course led to the Democrats saying, well, if it's already working, then you should take the money we're offering you, which is the same exact amount of money we offered you for border security last year.

SNELL: Right.

SHAPIRO: What about the president's insistence that this vote could get through the House and the only reason he's not bringing it up in the House is because it couldn't get through the Senate 'cause it doesn't have Democratic support? Is that true?

SNELL: Well, Nancy Pelosi kept telling him that it was not true, and she has pretty good reason to say that. Republicans control the House, and they could have brought up money for the president's wall at any time, and they just didn't do that. They also have been battling a group within their own party, a group of moderates, who would rather be dealing with, say, other parts of the legal immigration system. And, you know, this is not something that has full and total agreement within the Republican Party.

LIASSON: And, you know, one of the most dramatic moments in this meeting was when Nancy Pelosi was schooling the president about whether or not he had the votes in the House. She said, you don't have the votes. He said, yes, I do. And we know who the better - who is the better vote-counter in that standoff. But she was calling his bluff. She was saying, if you have the votes, go ahead. Put it on the floor of the House.

SHAPIRO: The president also sort of took a dig at Pelosi, suggesting that she couldn't negotiate because of her own internal politics in the leadership race among the House Democrats. Let's listen to this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: You know, Nancy is in a situation where it's not easy for her to talk right now. And I understand that, and I fully understand that. We're going to have a good discussion, and we're going to see what happens.

PELOSI: Mr. President...

TRUMP: But we have to have border security.

PELOSI: Mr. President, please don't characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats, who just won a big victory.

SHAPIRO: Kelsey, how did you read that exchange?

SNELL: Well, I read that as Pelosi being very upset that the president would try to diminish her here. And you know what? A lot of Democrats that I've talked to read it that way as well. They actually think that this was good for Pelosi. Democrats I've talked to say if there was any question about how she was going to handle herself in a relationship with the president, there is no question anymore.

And if you are a person who hasn't decided if you want to vote for her, if you're a Democrat who hasn't decided if you want to vote for her for speaker, this is the first indication they have of what it might be like to see a relationship between Pelosi and Trump. And I've heard from Democrats that they feel a lot better about the way she might comport herself with him.

LIASSON: Yeah, and, you know, if anybody wants a preview of what the new power dynamics in Washington are going to look like when divided government starts in January, I recommend they spend 17 minutes on YouTube watching this extraordinary Oval Office meeting.

SHAPIRO: A little glimpse today of what may be to come in January. Thank you very much, Kelsey Snell and Mara Liasson. Good to talk to you both.

SNELL: Thank you.

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.