President Donald Trump has abruptly cut off a meeting with US congressional Democrats on infrastructure spending, then ripped into them over intensifying investigations and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s accusation he is engaged in a cover-up.
- US President Donald Trump has been refusing to participate in Democrat-led investigations into his conduct
- Speaker Nancy Pelosi has accused Mr Trump of being engaged in a “cover-up”
- This caused Mr Trump to storm out of a bipartisan meeting on national infrastructure with Democrat leaders
“I don’t do cover-ups,” an agitated Mr Trump told reporters at a previously unscheduled White House appearance afterwards, as he unleashed a litany of gripes about special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe and follow-up enquiries by congressional Democrats that the Republican President has sought to stonewall.
Mr Trump, seeking re-election in 2020, said he would not work with Democrats on infrastructure, one of few issues that some had believed had the potential for bipartisan agreement, due to what he called their “phoney” investigations.
Ms Pelosi, the top congressional Democrat, did not back down afterwards and pointedly mentioned the possibility of impeachment, the process set up by the US Constitution for Congress 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 offence,” Ms Pelosi said.
After the blow-up of the meeting and Mr Trump’s Rose Garden diatribe, Democrats accused the President of setting them up and expressed concern about his conduct and the long-term outlook for policy making in Washington.
“The President has made it clear he doesn’t want to consider any substantive issue as long as he’s under investigation,” Dick Durbin, a Senate Democrat, said.
“I’ve got news for the President. Every president is under investigation. That’s the nature of our constitution,” he said.
Trump rails against House investigations
Trump and Democrats who control the House of Representatives are locked in a high-stakes power struggle over their ability to investigate him, with the President increasingly asserting that his advisers need not respond to the politicians’ enquiries.
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The President is stonewalling multiple congressional investigations by ignoring subpoenas, refusing to allow current and former advisers to testify and not handing over documents.
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With the White House drama behind him, Mr Trump said on Twitter: “You can’t investigate and legislate simultaneously” and accused Democrats in Congress of “tearing the United States apart”.
Ms Pelosi gave a different interpretation of Mr Trump’s actions at the infrastructure meeting.
“For some reason, and maybe it was lack of confidence on his part that he really couldn’t match the greatness of the challenge that we have, he wasn’t really respectful of the Congress and the White House working together,” she said.
“He just took a pass. And it just makes me wonder why he did that.
“In any event, I pray for the President of the United States and I pray for the United States of America.”
After the less-than-five-minute White House meeting collapsed, Mr Trump stood at 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.
Mr Trump said he was upset that Democrats were discussing the possibility of impeaching him.
“No collusion, no obstruction, no nothing,” he said.
“This whole thing was a take-down attempt at the President of the United States.”
Of the meeting, Mr Trump said:
“I walked into the room and I told Senator [Chuck] 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 phoney investigations over with.”
The numerous congressional probes now underway range from whether Mr Trump tried to obstruct Mr Mueller’s inquiry to the President’s undisclosed tax returns, his handling of numerous policy issues and possible conflicts of interest involving the businesses he has not divested even while serving.