Trump Walks Out on Democrats, Blasts ‘Phony’ Inquiries In Rose Garden
President Donald Trump stormed out of a meeting with congressional Democrats Wednesday, and berated them to reporters gathered in the Rose Garden after learning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had earlier said he’d engaged in a “cover up.”
Speaking behind a lectern adorned with the words “No Collusion, No Obstruction” and placards covered with information seeking to refute Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“We’ve had investigations like nobody in history, and I’ve done nothing wrong,” Trump said.
“I’ve said from the beginning that you probably can’t go down two tracks,” the president continued as he explained why he cut off the planned session to discuss infrastructure.
“You can go down the investigation track or you can go down the investment track … We’re going to go down one track at a time,” he said.
It was just 21 days ago that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., emerged from the White House after a meeting with the president, and announced they’d all agreed to a “big and bold” plan to invest as much as $2 trillion in much-needed infrastructure projects across the nation.
Wednesday’s session was intended to advance that earlier discussion and perhaps begin hashing out how to pay for it all.
Since then tensions between the White House and Capitol Hill have seemed to increase by the hour, as House Committee chairmen have demanded access to the full, unredacted Mueller report, years of Trump’s tax returns, and current and former administration employees.
In all of those cases subpoenas have been issued, and the administration has either ignored them or challenged Congress’ right to issue them.
Each time that’s happened, pressure on Pelosi over a possible impeachment inquiry against the president has increased.
On Wednesday morning, just hours before she was to meet with the president, Pelosi met with Democrats behind closed doors in a bid to tamp down that pressure.
During that meeting, the New York Times reported, Pelosi stressed the need for patience and reminded those in the room that so far, the courts have been on their side.
The Times attributed that information “to a person familiar with” the speaker’s remarks.
But as she spoke with reporters after the session, Pelosi insisted she is not letting the president off the hook and said Trump “is engaged in a cover up.”
Pelosi, Schumer and other members of the congressional leadership were already in the White House Cabinet Room when the president stalked in.
Without so much as greeting, Trump said he had wanted to advance legislation on infrastructure, trade and prescription drug prices, but could not do so because “Speaker Pelosi said something terrible today and accused me of a cover-up.”
With that, he left the room before the Democrats could respond.
Trump then headed to the Rose Garden, where reporters had already been assembled, and declared “I don’t do cover ups.”
He then demanded that Democrats “get these phony investigations over with” if they want talks with him to resume.
The president professed to be shocked that Pelosi had convened a meeting before their scheduled infrastructure session “to talk about the i-word,” meaning impeachment.
“I respect the courts, I respect Congress, I respect right here where we’re standing. But what they’ve done is abuse,” he said.
After returning to the Hill, Pelosi told reporters waiting for her there that congressional Democrats went to the White House “in a spirit of bipartisanship to find common ground” on infrastructure.
“For some reason, maybe it was lack of confidence on his part. … he just took a pass,” she said. “In any event, I pray for the President of the United States.”
“To watch what happened in the White House would make your jaw drop,” Schumer told reporters on Capitol Hill. “It’s clear this was not a spontaneous move on the president’s part. It was planned.”
In a written statement House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said, “House and Senate Democrats are committed to working with the Administration to reach agreement to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure.
“While we hoped today’s meeting would be a productive follow-up to the last one, with the President sharing his plan for how to pay for the $2 trillion in infrastructure investment we agreed to pursue, it was clear the President had no intention of working with us today,” Hoyer continued. “This meeting was a show, and it is deeply disappointing the President walked out on us and the American people.
“Democrats stand ready to work in good faith on an infrastructure package, but it is up to the President to lead on this. I urge him to do so,” he added.
Representative Lou Correa, D-Calif., co-chair for communications for the Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally-responsible House Democrats, said “the American people expect both the president and Congress to do their job—and that’s to govern.
“Grinding everything to a halt does a disservice to all Americans,” he said. “Congress can and should continue to do its job and pursue solutions that address our country’s needs, and we hope the President works with us to do so. At the very least, the Administration must work with Congress to look for ways to address the most urgent projects that are already paid for, have undergone an environmental review, and yet continue to be held up in the regulatory process. Our constituents are tired of waiting, and the President shouldn’t stop all policy from going forward.”
Correa went on to say that despite the apparent stalemate, the Blue Dog Coalition would continue to “explore ways we can address the most urgent projects and spur a serious, bipartisan discussion on how to best move forward.
“Our constituents sent us to Congress to deliver on our promise to fix our nation’s crumbling infrastructure—no progress is not an option,” he said.
Representative Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, also released a statement, one in which he stressed that infrastructure is and must remain a bipartisan issue.
In it he said, “We have an infrastructure crisis in this country that will only be resolved when President Trump agrees to put partisan politics aside and get serious about investing in our Nation’s crumbling roads, bridges, transit systems, harbors, airports, wastewater systems, and more.
“After our initial meeting at the White House several weeks back, I was hopeful we were seeing the first signs of political courage that is so badly needed to make progress and turn a campaign trail talking point into real action,” DeFazio said. “It’s disappointing that today the President and his team walked back from both the $2 trillion proposal and from showing leadership on how to pay for the package.
“Despite the disappointing outcome of today’s meeting, I remain committed to working in a bipartisan manner to move our infrastructure into the 21st Century, because the cost of inaction is too great,” the Oregon Democrat said. “Even if a transformative deal with the White House remains elusive in the near term, I will continue to use my position as Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to work with Republicans to move individual pieces of legislation that will make a difference, I will continue to work on a surface transportation reauthorization bill, and I will continue putting in the legwork to make the improvements to our nation’s infrastructure that Americans expect and deserve.”
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