President Donald Trump blew up talks with congressional Democratic leaders on Wednesday, vowing that he would not do anything to address America’s crumbling infrastructure — an issue he has repeatedly cited as a chance for bipartisan cooperation — until Congress stopped doing oversight of his administration.
Trump met with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Wednesday morning, ostensibly to discuss a path forward on legislation to rebuild roads and bridges. Last month, the trio had agreed to the outlines of a $2 trillion infrastructure spending plan. But with congressional Republicans and his own advisers reportedly objecting to the cost, it quickly became apparent that Trump had little intention to actually reach an agreement at this meeting.
Minutes after the meeting, Trump appeared in the White House Rose Garden and announced that he was angry that his campaign’s Russian ties and his repeated attempts to obstruct investigations are still being scrutinized even after he (falsely) declared himself totally exonerated by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
He admitted at the podium he was the one to scuttle infrastructure talks before they even began.
“So, I just wanted to let you know that I walked into the room and I told Sen. Schumer, Speaker Pelosi: ‘I wanna do infrastructure. I wanna 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,'” he told reporters.
“Let them play their games. We’ll go down one track at a time. Let them finish up and we’ll be all set,” Trump added.
Trump delivered this announcement in front of a printed sign that repeated his false mantra that the Mueller investigation found no collusion and no obstruction and was run by “18 Angry Democrats.” It also repeated the false claim that the investigation cost more than $35 million, though in reality it brought in more in asset forfeitures than it cost, including $22 million in real estate once belonging to Paul Manafort.
Out in the Rose Garden pic.twitter.com/TaXVqezQxI
— Steve Holland (@steveholland1) May 22, 2019
In a press conference after Trump’s speech, Schumer pointed out Trump’s behavior on Wednesday proved that the plan to talk was little more than a charade on the president’s part. “[N]ow that he was forced to actually say how he’d pay for it, he had to run away,” the New York Democrat explained. He noted that the press conference was obviously “not a spontaneous move on the president’s part. It was planned.”
“When we got in the room, the curtains were closed, the president — there was a place for him at the front, so he could stand and attempt to tell us why he wouldn’t do infrastructure,” Schumer recounted, “And of course, then he went to the Rose Garden with prepared signs that had been printed up long before our meeting.”
Pelosi also noted that this was the second excuse Trump had given in 24 hours as to why he could not address the nation’s infrastructure. “Last night he put forth a letter saying that unless we passed the U.S./Mexico/Canada free trade agreement, there was no reason for us to, you know, we couldn’t go forward with infrastructure.”
Trump did not explain why Congress could not pass legislation while it also did its constitutionally mandated oversight work. He showed little interest in passing an infrastructure package during the first two years of his administration, while Republicans controlled both houses of Congress. His administration’s announced “infrastructure week” roll-outs were cancelled so many times that it became a national joke.
In June 2015, Trump promised that if elected president, he would rebuild the country’s infrastructure. “Nobody can do that like me,” he said, “Believe me. It will be done on time, on budget, way below cost, way below what anyone ever thought.” Four years later, it seems unlikely that Trump will deliver on what he once called the “the next generation of roads, bridges, railways and tunnels, and seaports and airports, that believe me, folks, is what our country deserves.”