WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump abruptly stalked out of a meeting with congressional leaders on Wednesday with a flat declaration he would no longer work with Democrats unless they drop all investigations in the aftermath of the special counsel’s Trump-Russia report.
Democrats said the walkout seemed scripted. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it all “very, very, very strange” and said she was praying for Trump and the nation.
After turning and leaving the three-minute non-meeting with the Democratic leaders, scheduled for a discussion of US infrastructure problems, Trump strode to the Rose Garden where aides had gathered reporters and TV cameras for his demand that Congress drop its investigations that are increasingly leading to talk of what he called the “i-word” — impeachment.
Trump assailed Pelosi in particular for her comment earlier in the morning on Capitol Hill that she believed the president was engaged in a “cover up” of the Russia probe.
Trump said, “I walked into the room and I told Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi I want to do infrastructure,” referring to the top Democratic senator, New York’s Chuck Schumer.
“But you know what we can’t do it under these circumstances,” Trump said. “So get these phony investigations over.” The president didn’t shake anyone’s hands or take a seat, but spent three minutes contending he had been prepared to work on infrastructure, trade and other issue but now he couldn’t because Pelosi said “something terrible,” according to an administration official and another person familiar with what happened in the room. Trump then left before anyone else could speak.
Pelosi said to those still in the room no Republican lawmakers were there that she had known the president was not serious about infrastructure and would find a way out, according to another person familiar with the meeting.
Back on Capitol Hill, Pelosi said Trump “just took a pass” on working on national infrastructure problems.
Pelosi, flanked by Schumer and other House and Senate leaders, said the Democrats had gone to the White House “to give this president the opportunity to have a signature infrastructure initiative.” She said she would be praying for the president.
Trump tweeted back: “and Nancy, thank you so much for your prayers. I know you truly mean it.” The meeting at the White House had been set weeks ago, after Trump and the Democratic leaders agreed to talk further about a possible $2 trillion infrastructure proposal. Trump was due to provide the Democrats his ideas on how to pay for it. Schumer said when Trump “was forced to say how he would pay for it he had to run away.” Despite the sudden turn of events, the outburst followed a familiar script of Trump convening leaders at the White House only to try to turn the tables and refocus attention. He has stormed out of previous sessions.
Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2019