President halted infrastructure meeting and condemned Pelosi in a snap press conference after she said he was ‘engaging in a cover-up’
Donald Trump on Wednesday terminated a meeting with Democratic leaders after just a few minutes, saying he refuses to work with them on an infrastructure plan unless they stop investigating him and lift the threat of impeachment, The Guardian reports.
Democrats quickly fired back, claiming that the US president had planned the stunt in advance and what happened at the White House would “make your jaw drop”.
In a snap 10-minute press conference in the Rose Garden, just outside the Oval Office, Trump condemned the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, after she told reporters that he was “engaging in a cover-up”.
“Instead of walking in happily into a meeting, I walk into, look at people that have just said that I was doing a cover-up,” Trump said. “I don’t do cover-ups. You people know that probably better than anybody.”
In front of the presidential podium was a hastily erected sign showing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election “by the numbers” and the words, relating to allegations of improper contact between the Trump campaign and the Russians: “No collusion. No obstruction.”
Trump insisted: “We did nothing wrong. They would have loved to say we colluded … they were out to get us. The crime was committed on the other side. We will see how that all turns out.”
Mueller’s reported cited 11 examples of potential obstruction of justice, but Trump added: “There was no collusion, there was no obstruction. This whole thing was a takedown attempt on the president of the United States.”
Many many members of press should be “ashamed” of how they covered this story, he said.
There is a “danger”, he added, because if there is a Democratic president in the future, “they can impeach him for any reason”.
While he had hoped to discuss infrastructure with Pelosi and the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, “you can’t do it under these circumstances, so get these phony investigations over with”.
Minutes later, at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, on Capitol Hill, Pelosi and Schumer offered a very different version of events. Pelosi said they had gone to the White House in good faith hoping to agree on a historic infrastructure plan.
“Maybe it was lack of confidence on his part, he couldn’t match the greatness of the challenge that we have,” she said of Trump. “He just took a pass and it just makes me wonder why he did that. In any event, I pray for the president of the United States and I pray for the United States of America.”
Schumer suggested that Trump had planned the move in advance, telling how the curtains were closed and there appeared to be a place set aside for Trump to stand at the front of the room, while the slogans and statistics posted on his podium in the Rose Garden had been printed long before the meeting. The Rose Garden can be seen from the Oval Office.
“To watch what happened in the White House would make your jaw drop,” Schumer said.
Brandishing a 35-page plan, Schumer dismissed Trump’s complaint that investigations into his administration and infrastructure cannot run in parallel, suggesting that Trump was hiding from the fact he cannot find funding for the latter.
“We are interested in doing infrastructure. It’s clear the president isn’t. He is looking for every excuse, whether it was let’s do trade first, or whether it was he’s not going to pay for any funding, or whether today that there are investigations going on. 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’d pay for it, he had to run away, and he came up with this pre-planned excuse. Its clear this was not a spontaneous move on the president’s part.
The standoff is the latest sign of how little political progress is likely in a divided government ahead of the presidential election in November next year.
A growing number of Democrats have called for the launch of an impeachment process against Trump as frustrations build over the White House’s refusal to comply with subpoenas for hearings and documents.