Breaking News Emails
President Donald Trump blasted top congressional Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer as all talk, no action and "weak" on key issues like crime and immigration after the duo canceled a meeting with him on Tuesday.
"They've been all talk and they've been no action, and now it's even worse — now it's not even talk," Trump told reporters at the White House as he sat sandwiched between two empty chairs — one for Pelosi and the other for Schumer.
The president said he wasn't surprised that the Democrats opted out of the planned meeting at the White House with him and congressional GOP leaders.
In their absence, Trump roasted Pelosi and Schumer as "weak" on crime and immigration — accusing them of wanting people to pour into the U.S. illegally — while also remarking that boosting the military is "always second" to them, but is "number one" to Trump. Further, the president said, "they want high taxes, we want to cut taxes."
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who met with Trump at the White House piled on, with the Speaker calling it "very regrettable" that the Democrats chose not to attend despite pressing issues facing the country. McConnell that in all his years in D.C. he "can't recall ever turning down an opportunity to go down to the White House."
"You cannot negotiate...without the person who signs the bill (Trump) in the room," McConnell said, adding that the Democratic leaders "need to understand the way the government works."
Later, Pelosi ripped Trump for the empty chair "photo op" and said his "verbal abuse" wouldn't be tolerated.
Attacks like these from the president are what prompted the Democrats to cancel on Trump in the first place after he tweeted Tuesday morning that Pelosi and Schumer "want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes" and that he didn't see a deal happening with them.
Pelosi and Schumer said they had decided to boycott the meeting with Trump shortly after his scathing tweet.
"Given that the President doesn't see a deal between Democrats and the White House, we believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead," read a joint statement from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.
Instead of a get-together with Trump, the Democratic leaders asked their Republican congressional counterparts — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin — to meet Tuesday afternoon. That meeting never happened.
The GOP lawmakers accused the Democrats of finding "new excuses not to meet with the administration to discuss these issues."
Earlier Tuesday, Trump went to Capitol Hill for a separate meeting with GOP senators. After that half-hour closed-door session, McConnell took another shot at his Democratic counterparts. "It never occurred to me that I could just say to President Obama, 'I'm not showing up,'" he told reporters. "I mean, that strikes me as a lack of seriousness about the matter before us."
In his tweet attacking Schumer and Pelosi, Trump was pessimistic on the prospect of a deal to avoid a government shutdown, saying that he doesn't "see a deal" happening with "Chuck and Nancy" because of their stances on immigration, crime and taxes.
Government funding is set to run out Dec. 8 — and both parties have major unresolved issues to contend with if they want to keep it open.
The White House and Republicans are in the final weeks of a push for tax reform — an issue McConnell described Tuesday as "challenging" after meeting with the president and likened to solving "Rubik's Cube" — but immigration, health care and defense spending also loom large over the negotiations for a funding deal.
If a government shutdown were to happen, "I would absolutely blame the Democrats," Trump said.
Behind the scenes, Democratic aides told NBC News they believe McConnell and Ryan are negotiating with Democrats "in good faith" and that the broad contours of a potential spending deal are already in place.
Trump has shown a willingness to work with Schumer and Pelosi before. The last time Schumer, Pelosi, Ryan and McConnell huddled at the White House, in September, Trump's bipartisan outreach benefited Democrats, earning them a short-term extension on government spending.
Democrats hope any new deal with the GOP will include an agreement on child health care and protections for Dreamers — the young, undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. who were previously protected from deportation by DACA, an Obama-era program that Trump ended this summer.
Trump, on the other hand, has remained steadfast in his desire to "build the wall," continuing his hard-line immigration stance.