It was a cringe-worthy spectacle, even by this White House's standards, and the cameras were rolling to record the action.
President Donald Trump, Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer openly sparred in the Oval Office, growing at times visibly impatient, over the president's pet project, the border wall. Vice President Mike Pence, who was also there, looked on in silence as the tensions flared.
Trump repeatedly demanded to Pelosi and Schumer that they give him the funding necessary for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, even though he's repeatedly insisted Mexico would pay for the wall. As Pelosi explained that Trump didn’t have the votes for $5 billion, he said he could get the votes in the House himself.
“You will not win,” Pelosi said curtly.
Trump then repeated that he could get the votes he needed in the House “in one session,” which Democrats will retake in January. Democrats have promised Trump $1.3 billion in funding for a border fence, a number far below the president’s $5 billion request.
“Then go do it,” Pelosi said.
Throughout the meeting, Trump repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if Democrats won’t give him the votes to fund a border wall.
“If we don’t have border security, we’ll shut down the government,” Trump said.
At times contradicting himself, Trump declared that his administration has secured the U.S. borders, while also claiming there can be no border security without a border wall. The president also said that large parts of the wall had already been built — a false claim he has made before, which continued to be false on Tuesday.
Both Democrats repeatedly implored Trump to debate without the press in the room, but Trump ignored their pleas, interrupting them and rattling off Republican strategy.
Pelosi responded several times by asking him to take the meeting private.
“It’s not bad, Nancy,” Trump said. “It’s called transparency.”
Trump then told the assembled reporters that Pelosi is in a situation where it’s “not easy for her to talk.”
“Mr. President, please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting,” Pelosi retorted.
Eventually, after numerous refusals to stop arguing publicly, the president agreed that the debate should be continued privately so that information wouldn’t be misstated.
“See,” Trump said, moments after he had shouted over Schumer. “We get along!”
Cover image: WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 11: U.S. President Donald Trump (2R) talks about border security with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) (R) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as Vice President Mike Pence sits nearby in the Oval Office on December 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)