Trump threatens to end work with Democrats because of 'cover up' talk

President Trump on Wednesday threatened to halt work with Democrats on legislation unless they stop investigating his administration, underscoring his barely concealed rage over efforts by his political opponents to dig into special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

Trump abruptly cut short a meeting with congressional leaders who were at the White House to discuss infrastructure, then walked out to the Rose Garden to air his grievances with them to reporters and television cameras.

He vehemently rejected Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) claim that he is “engaged in a cover-up” and demanded that Democrats “get these phony investigations over with” because he said they cannot make laws and investigate him at the same time.

“Let them play their games,” Trump said. “We're going to go down one track at a time.”

Trump’s stance might not just hurt infrastructure talks, which had already hit snags, but could also affect ongoing spending and debt limit negotiations and a revived push for Congress to approve his revision of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

It dims any prospect of Trump adding a major legislative accomplishment to his record ahead of the 2020 elections.

Trump’s trip to the Rose Garden appeared planned, and Democrats argued they were bystanders to a staged temper tantrum, a charge White House officials denied.

But the president’s anger at Pelosi appeared real after she all but accused him of committing a crime while speaking to reporters on-camera minutes before heading to the White House.

“I don’t do cover-ups,” Trump shot back during his remarks.

When Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) showed up at the White House, Trump by some accounts was already in a fit of pique.

Schumer said afterward that Trump stood in the Oval Office, where the curtains were closed, and told us “why he wouldn’t do infrastructure” while reporters waited outside in the Rose Garden.

The president did not shake anyone’s hand or sit in his chair, according to another person familiar with what happened in the room. He said he wanted to work on infrastructure, trade agreements and other issues but argued it wasn’t possible because “Speaker Pelosi said something terrible today and accused me of a cover-up.”

Trump left the room after talking for three minutes and before anyone else could speak, the person said. The Democrats had already waited 15 minutes for the president to arrive.

After Trump left the room, Pelosi told the others who remained that past Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt worked with their opponents to solve infrastructure problems but that she was not surprised Trump walked away.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway turned to Pelosi and asked if she had “a direct response to the president,” according to a source familiar with the exchange.

When Pelosi replied that she was responding to the president, and not to his staff, Conway replied, “really great, that’s really pro-woman of you.”

“In any event, I pray for the president of the United States and I pray for the United States of America,” Pelosi said after the meeting, while standing beside Schumer at a press conference in the Capitol.

Trump appeared to believe that remark was in jest, tweeting later that Democrats were trying to tear the country apart and then thanking “Nancy” for her prayers, writing, “I know you truly mean it!”

Schumer said the day’s events “would make your jaw drop” but added that, to him, “it’s clear this was not a spontaneous move on the president’s part.”

A White House official said there was no longstanding plan to ambush Democrats, saying that the “catalyst” for Trump’s reaction was Pelosi’s Wednesday morning comments.

After the meeting ended, Trump spoke for 12 minutes at lectern with a placard attached to it reading “No Collusion No Obstruction.” White House aides handed reporters sheets containing statistics designed to show Trump cooperated with Mueller’s Russia investigation.

“Instead of walking in happily into a meeting, I walk in to look at people that have just said that I was doing a cover-up,” Trump said of the Democrats.

“I told Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi, ‘I want to do infrastructure. I want to do it more than you want to do it. I'd be really good at that. That's what I do. But you know what? You can't do it under these circumstances,’” he continued.

Democrats voiced their exasperation with the meeting, saying they entered prepared to hammer out the details of a $2 trillion infrastructure plan they agreed less than a month ago to work toward. Schumer said he had a 35-page plan detailing areas to spend the money.

“We are interested in doing infrastructure. It's clear the president isn’t. He is looking for every excuse,” Schumer said.

The top Senate Democrat said the lack of consensus within the White House on how to fund such a massive project — and not the investigations — was the real reason for the breakdown.

“Hello, there were investigations going on three weeks ago when we met and he still met with us. But now that he was forced to actually say how he would pay for it, he had to run away.” Schumer said.

The talks showed signs of breaking down even before Wednesday’s ill-fated meeting. Trump threw a wrench into the negotiations on Tuesday night when he wrote a letter to Pelosi and Schumer demanding that Congress approved his NAFTA revision before moving onto infrastructure.

The president’s decision three weeks ago to agree to cooperate with Democrats on an infrastructure package surprised many in Washington, given that he pledged after the 2018 midterm elections to adopt a “warlike posture” if they investigated him.

So, even though his decision Wednesday to blow up the talks was sudden it was not entirely surprising.

Trump has repeatedly blasted the Democrats’ investigations in recent days, and the White House has ramped up its effort to thwart their subpoenas and document requests.

The White House instructed former White House counsel Don McGahn not to testify on Tuesday to the House Judiciary Committee, depriving Democrats of the chance to hear from a key witness in the Russia probe, and invoked executive privilege to block the release of Mueller’s full report on Moscow’s election interference and Trump’s possible obstruction of justice.

While Mueller concluded there was no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016, he left open the question of whether the president obstructed the probe though the Justice Department declined to press charges.

The White House’s moves have raised the ire of rank-and-file Democrats, as well as some members of leadership, who say they provide grounds for impeachment. But Pelosi and her top deputies have resisted those calls, arguing that an inquiry could backfire politically.

Trump told reporters he was dismayed to learn that Pelosi had convened a meeting before their infrastructure discussion “to talk about the I-word,” referring to impeachment.

“They would have loved to have said we colluded, they would have loved it,” the president said. “These people were out to get us, the Republican Party and President Trump. They were out to get us. This was a one-sided horrible thing. The bottom line is they said there's no collusion. No collusion with Russia.”
Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher is the editor and publisher of High Plains Pundit. Dan is also the host of the popular High Plains Pundit Podcast.

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