In a public outburst on Wednesday, President Donald Trump said that he will refuse to work with congressional Democrats on an infrastructure package until the House halts its investigations into him.
Trump made the comments in a supposedly impromptu press conference at the White House after he cut short a meeting with Democrats after just a few minutes and stormed out. Trump proceeded to the Rose Garden to give relatively brief remarks railing against Democrats and the investigations into his campaign and administration.
The President’s explicit threat to refuse working with Democrats on legislation unless they drop their probes into him opened a new front in his war on congressional oversight. Already the administration has engaged in unprecedented stonewalling of House probes and Trump has filed lawsuits in his personal capacity in a bid to halt congressional subpoenas.
Though he’s long lamented the Russia “hoax,” it appears the President was in an especially sour mood Wednesday morning, given his round of angry tweets largely consisting of standard fare from a commander-in-chief whose proclamations about a “witch hunt” have coalesced into a buzz of rhetorical white noise.
Trump’s emotions appear to have been heightened by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) comment Wednesday morning that Trump “is engaged in a cover-up.”
“I came here to do a meeting on infrastructure with Democrats,” Trump began at his Rose Garden press conference. “And I just saw that Nancy Pelosi, just before our meeting, made a statement that ‘We believe that the President of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.'”
CNN and others outlets reported Wednesday that the White House began preparing for Trump’s Rose Garden remarks after Pelosi’s remark, though Democratic leaders weren’t disinvited from the meeting.
In his remarks, Trump offered an ultimatum to Democrats: Bipartisan legislative efforts come only after the investigations stop.
“I’ve said from the beginning that you probably can’t go down two tracks: You can go down the investigation track [or] you can go down the investment track, or the track of let’s get things done for the American people,” Trump said Wednesday
The President said he’d walked into the room with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Pelosi and told them: “I want to do infrastructure, I want to do it more than you want to do it. I would be really good at that. That’s what I do. But you know what? You can’t do it under these circumstances.”
Pelosi, speaking a few minutes after Trump in a separate Democratic press conference, said Democrats had attended the meeting “in the spirit of bipartisanship to find common ground with the President on this.”
“He came into the room, made the statement that he made— I won’t even characterize it,” she said, describing Trump leaving the meeting.
She took a not-so-subtle shot at the President a bit later: “For some reason, and maybe it was lack of confidence on his part, that he really couldn’t match the greatness of the challenge that we have, wasn’t really respectful of the of the Congress and the White House working together, he just took a pass. And it just makes me wonder why he did that.”
Schumer, speaking after Pelosi, asserted Trump’s stunt was pre-planned move to avoid speaking about infrastructure funding.
“Hello? There were investigations going on three weeks ago when we met, and he still met with us,” he said. “But now that he was forced to actually say how he would pay for it, he had to run away. And he came up with this pre-planned excuse.”
“It’s clear that this was not a spontaneous move on the President’s part,” Schumer added. “It was planned.”
Later, speaking at a conference held by the liberal group Center for American Progress, Pelosi said Trump told Democrats that he “couldn’t possibly engage in a conversation on infrastructure as long as we are investigating him.”
Trump’s walkout, she said, was “orchestrated, almost to a ‘oh, poor baby’ point of view.”
The situation recalled another not so long ago, when Trump “just got up and walked out,” as Schumer described it, of a meeting to negotiate ending Trump’s government shutdown over wall funding, in January.