Trump torpedoes meeting with Democrats, blasts Pelosi’s ‘cover-up’ accusation
President Donald Trump on Wednesday abruptly cut short a White House meeting with Democratic lawmakers on infrastructure, then ripped into them over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s accusation that he is engaged in a cover-up and asserted that he could not work with them unless they dropped multiple investigations.
“I don’t do cover-ups,” the Republican president, clearly agitated, told reporters at a previously unscheduled Rose Garden appearance after his brief meeting with Democratic congressional leaders that Pelosi described as “very, very, very strange.”
Unleashing a familiar litany of gripes about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe and the follow-up congressional inquiries that he has been stonewalling, Trump also complained that Democrats had met to discuss whether to impeach him - or, as he called it, “the I-word.”
The rupture bodes ill for any possible cooperation between the president and the Democrats who control the House of Representatives on legislation on infrastructure or other matters as Trump seeks re-election in 2020, signaling deepening political gridlock in Washington.
Pelosi, the top congressional Democrat, did not back down afterward and pointedly mentioned the possibility of impeachment, the US Constitution’s process for the House and Senate to remove a president from office.
“The fact is, in plain sight in the public domain, this president is obstructing justice and he’s engaged in a cover-up - and that could be an impeachable offense,” Pelosi said in an event at the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington policy advocacy group.
The president is stonewalling congressional investigations by ignoring subpoenas, refusing to let current and former advisers testify and not handing over documents in the aftermath of the April release of Mueller’s report that detailed Russian interference in the 2016 election to boost Trump’s candidacy.
In the run-up to the infrastructure meeting, Trump was stewing over Pelosi’s cover-up remarks, according to a White House official. Pelosi, amid growing talk about impeachment, had told reporters about an hour before the scheduled meeting that Trump is engaged in a cover-up.
As the meeting neared, Trump told aides he wanted to hold an event in the Rose Garden to make a statement.
When Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer arrived in the Cabinet Room, Trump walked in, stood at the head of a long boardroom table, and told them he had asked them over to talk about infrastructure, but that the speaker had just accused him of a cover-up. The meeting lasted only three to five minutes, the official said.
Once Trump exited, Pelosi told Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and others in the room that prior presidents like Theodore Roosevelt had brought people together on infrastructure but Trump had walked out, two sources familiar with the meeting said.
Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway asked Pelosi, “Do you have a response to what the president actually said?” Pelosi fired back, “I’m going to engage directly with the president, not the staff.”
“That’s very pro-woman of you,” Conway fired back, the sources said.
Afterward, Trump strode to a podium adorned with a professionally made sign that read, “No Collusion, No Obstruction” and that also listed the cost and length of the Mueller probe.
Trump said, “I walked into the room and I told Senator Schumer, 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. So get these phony investigations over with.”
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