WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump was meeting with his Homeland Security secretary and other officials on Monday to discuss border security issues as a partial government shutdown over his U.S.-Mexico border wall entered Christmas without a clear resolution in sight.
Though both sides have traded offers over the dollars, they remain far apart on the wall. The White House insists Trump will reject any deal that does not include money for a wall or fence; Democrats were holding firm in their opposition to a wall or other physical barrier.
In a joint statement Monday, the Democratic leaders, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, said as long as Trump keeps listening to the Freedom Caucus and others on the right flank, there is no easy resolution to the impasse.
“It’s Christmas Eve and President Trump is plunging the country into chaos,” the leaders said. They pointed to problems beyond the shutdown, including the declining stock market and the president’s firing of the defense secretary. “The president wanted the shutdown, but he seems not to know how to get himself out of it.”
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said a counteroffer was presented over the weekend to Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York. Mulvaney would only say the offer was between Trump’s $5.7 billion request and $1.3 billion Democrats have offered.
“We moved off of the five and we hope they move up from their 1.3,” he said Sunday, a day after a senior administration official insisted Congress would have to cave into Trump’s spending demand for the shutdown to end. The comments highlighted Trump’s unpredictable negotiating style.
A Democratic aide granted anonymity to discuss the private talks confirmed the White House offered $2.5 billion, an initial $2.1 billion plus $400 million Democrats called a “slush fund” for the president’s other immigration priorities.
Mulvaney said he was awaiting a response from Schumer, whose office said the parties remained “very far apart.”
Trump chimed in from the White House, where he has been cooped up since the shutdown began early Saturday.
The president scheduled a border security meeting Monday afternoon at the White House with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other department officials, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
Senate negotiators are continuing talks behind the scenes with Democrats and Republicans. The House and Senate briefly gaveled into session on Christmas Eve before closing again with no further action.
In their statement, Pelosi and Schumer said “different people from the same White House are saying different things about what the president would accept or not accept to end his Trump Shutdown, making it impossible to know where they stand at any given moment.”
Trump blamed Democrats for the stalemate, tweeting Monday that “Virtually every Democrat we are dealing with today strongly supported a Border Wall or Fence. It was only when I made it an important part of my campaign, because people and drugs were pouring into our Country unchecked, that they turned against it. Desperately needed!”
However, an AP Fact Check found that U.S. arrests on the Mexican border jumped 78 percent in November from a year earlier to the highest level in Trump’s presidency. Increased arrests indicate that more people are trying to cross the border illegally. Several Cabinet departments and agencies have been closed since Saturday after their funding lapsed. The closure affects hundreds of thousands of federal workers across the country and was expected to last at least through Thursday, when the House and Senate meet again.