President Donald Trump abruptly walked out of a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., at the White House on Wednesday, telling reporters moments later that he would not negotiate on legislation with Democrats while he was still under investigation by several committees.
Wednesday’s meeting was supposed to be the second official sit-down between the president and Democratic congressional leadership specifically focused on infrastructure.
“I walked into the room and I told Sen. Schumer and Speaker Pelosi, ‘I want to do infrastructure’ … but we can’t do it under these circumstances,” Trump said at a last-minute Rose Garden event.
Trump’s anger appears to have been sparked by comments Pelosi made earlier in the day when she said, “We believe the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up” by blocking White House aides from giving testimony and responding to document requests from ongoing congressional investigations.
“I don’t do cover-ups,” Trump insisted Wednesday.
According to a White House official who spoke to CNBC on condition of anonymity, the meeting in the Cabinet room lasted only about seven minutes. Trump effectively said to the visiting Democrats that he wanted to do infrastructure, “‘but you’re focused on investigating. When you’re done we can talk. Meeting over,'” Trump said, and then he left, the official said.
“I knew the president was not serious about infrastructure and would find a way out,” Pelosi said to her Democratic colleagues after Trump’s exit, according to a Democratic aide who spoke to NBC News.
It appeared as though Trump’s abrupt walkout had been planned in advance, given that the White House had prepared a sign to adorn the presidential lectern, and handouts that were given to reporters following the Rose Garden statement.
President Donald Trump discusses Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election in the Rose Garden at the White House May 22, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images
Speaking to journalists at the Capitol shortly afterward, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said there had been “high drama in the Cabinet room. We were all invited, Democratic leaders, for the follow-up meeting on infrastructure, everyone showed up, sat in their chairs, the president walked in the room and announced he was not going to go forward with the meeting, he was cancelling it.”
Trump “objected to the continued investigation of obstruction of justice, he said he cooperated and gave his side of the story, as we’ve heard before,” Durbin said, calling the outcome of the meeting, “a setback to our country’s progress.”
Following the president’s remarks, Pelosi and Schumer held an impromptu event on Capitol Hill where Schumer said Trump’s actions at the meeting “would make your jaw drop.”
In late April, a similarly billed meeting proved to be an unexpected success, with both Trump and Democrats saying the two sides agreed that an infrastructure package would need to contain about $2 trillion in funding and investments.
Since then, however, there had been little additional clarity as to what the next steps forward might be, or where this money would come from.
“Let them finish up” their investigations, Trump said at the end of his remarks in the Rose Garden, “and we’ll be all set.”
Later in the day, Trump reiterated his position in a series of tweets, claiming, “You can’t investigate and legislate simultaneously – it just doesn’t work that way.”
— CNBC’s Eamon Javers contributed to this report.