WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday the partial government shutdown will last “as long as it takes” as closures entered a 12th day over his demands for billions of dollars from Congress to build a border wall with Mexico.
“Could be a long time or could be quickly,” Trump said during lengthy comments at a Cabinet meeting at the White House, his first public appearance of the new year.
The president said his Homeland Security officials will “make a plea” for the border wall during a briefing for congressional leaders later Wednesday at the White House.
But Trump also rejected his own administration’s offer to accept $2.5 billion for the wall. That offer was made when Vice President Mike Pence and other top officials met with Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer at the start of the shutdown. Instead, Trump repeatedly pushed for the $5.6 billion he has demanded.
Trump made his case ahead of the afternoon session with Democratic and Republican leaders about the migrants arriving at the border in recent days. He said the current border is “like a sieve” and noted the tear gas “flying” overnight to deter arrivals. He called the border “very tough” at keeping immigrants out.
“If they knew they couldn’t come through, they wouldn’t even start,” Trump said at the meeting, joined by Cabinet secretaries and top advisers, including Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
The meeting came as the shutdown dragged through its second week, closing some parks and leaving hundreds of thousands of federal employees without pay.
Trump complained that he had been “lonely” at the White House during the holiday break, having skipped his getaway to Mar-a-Lago in Florida. He claimed his only companions were the “machine gunners,” referring to security personnel, and “they don’t wave, they don’t smile.” He also criticized Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, for visiting Hawaii.
At the Capitol on Wednesday, Pelosi said she hoped Republicans and the White House “are hearing what we have offered” to end the shutdown.
So far, the administration has rejected a proposal from Democrats to re-open government without money to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump contended the Democrats see the shutdown fight as “an election point” as he celebrated his own first two years in office. He promised “six more years of great success.”
The partial government shutdown began on Dec. 22. Funding for the wall has been the sticking point in passing funding bills for several government departments.
The Wednesday afternoon briefing with the congressional leaders is taking place the day before Democrats are to assume control of the House and end the Republican monopoly on government.
The session will be held in the high-security Situation Room at the White House, which is typically used to handle sensitive information. The location means the conversation will not be televised, unlike the volatile sitdown during which Democratic leaders talked back to Trump last month.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the top incoming House Republicans — Kevin McCarthy of California and Steve Scalise of Louisiana — planned to attend, according to aides. The departing House speaker, Paul Ryan, was not expected.
Pelosi, who is expected to become speaker on Thursday, and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer planned to attend. Pelosi said Tuesday that Democrats would take action to “end the Trump Shutdown” by passing legislation Thursday to reopen government.