House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued a strong rebuke of President Trump Tuesday, saying any conversations between the White House and Democratic leaders regarding Trump’s proposed border wall should be based in fact.
Trump met face to face with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to try and avert a shutdown, which will occur if Congress cannot reach an agreement to continue funding the government by December 21. The president invited cameras in for a photo op at the beginning of the conversation, which quickly devolved into a fight over funding for the border wall, one of Trump’s central campaign promises.
Trump needs 10 Democratic votes in the Senate — as well as the House GOP, which has proven adversarial on the issue — to pass a bill containing $1.6 billion in wall funding. On Tuesday, Pelosi reminded the president of that fact, prompting Trump to respond that the wall’s effectiveness would convince Democrats to sign off on the agreement.
“It’s been very effective,” he said. “…If you look at San Diego, illegal traffic dropped 92 percent once the wall was up. El Paso, illegal traffic dropped 72 percent, then ultimately 95 percent once the wall was up. In Tucson, Arizona, illegal traffic dropped 92 percent. Yuma, it dropped illegal traffic 95 to 96 percent.”
Pelosi rejected that assertion, suggesting the president’s claims about the effectiveness of a border wall were overblown. San Diego, for instance, is by far the biggest gateway for illegal drugs, despite the fact that Trump previously praised the city for building a wall along the southern border. There is no wall in Tucson, Arizona because it is not on the border.
“What the president is representing…is not factual,” Pelosi said. “We have to have an evidence-based conversation about what does work, what money has been spent, and how effective it is. This is about the security of our country we take an oath to protect and defend, and we don’t want to have that mischaracterized by anyone.”
Nancy and Chuck now tag-teaming Trump, notes his party got clobbered. pic.twitter.com/2ksLMWPbto
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) December 11, 2018
In a later exchange, Schumer and Trump clashed over who bore responsibility for past shutdowns. Schumer noted Trump had repeatedly threatened to shut down the government.
“I am proud to shut down the government for border security,” Trump responded. “I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it.”
In a press conference with reporters after the meeting, Pelosi described the conversation as “unfortunate.”
“We didn’t want to contradict the president when he was putting forth figures that had no reality to them, no basis in fact,” Pelosi said. “[But] we have to, if we’re going to proceed in all of this, have evidence-based, factual, truthful information about what works and what doesn’t.”
She added, “I didn’t want to, in front of those people, say, ‘you don’t know what you’re talking about.'”
The fight over funding Trump’s wall has been waged since he entered the White House, and got more intense in July, when the House approved a downpayment on border fencing but nothing for the wall, despite Trump’s demand for $5 billion in wall funding that as a candidate, Trump said Mexico would pay for.