On Day 20 Of The Shutdown, Trump Will Visit U.S.-Mexico Border
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
President Trump leaves behind the stalemate in Washington over border security and heads to the border himself. Just like his address from the Oval Office the other night, though, it's unclear how much his border visit will actually change anyone's mind. A meeting between the president and Democratic congressional leaders yesterday ended with the president walking out. Here's how Vice President Mike Pence explained it.
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VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: He asked Speaker Pelosi that if he opened things up quickly, if he reopened the government quickly, would she be willing to agree to funding for a wall or a barrier on the Southern border. And when she said no, the president said, goodbye.
MARTIN: Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had a different take.
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CHUCK SCHUMER: And then a few minutes later, he sort of slammed the table, and when Leader Pelosi said she didn't agree with the wall, he just walked out and said, we have nothing to discuss.
MARTIN: However it went down, it seems talks are in shambles on this day, Day 20 of the partial government shutdown. We are joined now by NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Good morning, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.
MARTIN: The president called the meeting yesterday a, quote, "total waste of time." Is it fair to say that negotiations are at a new low this morning?
HORSLEY: Well, I don't know if we're at a new low, but if the session yesterday didn't move us backwards, it certainly didn't move anybody forward. You know, the president is unwilling to give up what he sees as his one bit of leverage in this wall battle, which is the partial government shutdown, and Democrats are unwilling to give in to what they see as extortion by the president.
MARTIN: I mentioned the primetime address he gave earlier this week from the Oval Office. Now he's heading to the border. But there are these reports suggesting that the president himself isn't necessarily keen on the messaging campaign around this whole thing, right?
HORSLEY: Right. The president had an off-the-record meeting with some network people before his speech on Tuesday. And - surprise, surprise - details of that off-the-record session have now leaked out, and the president's expressed skepticism that either that speech or this photo-op along the border today was really going to move the needle. And in fact, there is no evidence that his speech on Tuesday night turned any heads when it comes to the border wall.
MARTIN: The White House has talked about the president possibly declaring a national emergency to just bypass Congress altogether and start building the wall with Mexico. Is that still in the president's back pocket?
HORSLEY: Yes. The president has said that is still on the table, although he seems really reluctant to pull the trigger. It would almost certainly invite a legal challenge if he were to declare a national emergency and unilaterally, say, move money from some military account to fund the border wall.
And even some of the president's congressional allies are wary about this step, either because they don't want to see military money used for another purpose or because they don't want to see the president short-circuiting the congressional authority to control the purse strings. However, there are some observers who see this who have reluctantly embraced the presidential emergency strategy as one way out of this logjam.
MARTIN: But I mean, Scott, you have covered your fair share of government shutdowns over the years. As you look at how this is unfolding or just the intransigence of the whole thing, what strikes you? I mean, where is the opening here?
HORSLEY: You know, I have seen a lot of tense negotiations in the White House, and I've certainly seen some grim staring contests across the table in the Roosevelt Room there. What I think is unusual about this situation is how transparent the president has been about his own bargaining tactics. He has frankly acknowledged that he is willing to hold parts of the government hostage in order to get his way on the border wall that he has not been able to get through any other means.
MARTIN: Right - keep saying these people giving up their paychecks are patriots. But we'll see how long that lasts. NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Thanks, Scott.
HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.