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Trump Walks Out Of Meeting With Congressional Democrats


Whatever temporary peace existed between President Trump and congressional Democrats - it is over. President Trump stormed out of a bipartisan infrastructure meeting today. Then he stepped before cameras in the Rose Garden to share his grievances about Democrats and about the investigations swirling around the White House.

Joining us now to talk about a day of fireworks in Washington is NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. And, Tam, fireworks were not the plan for today. Remind us back when we all woke up this morning what the agenda was supposed to be.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: There were two items on the agenda today that we were watching. There was this infrastructure meeting at the White House, which was a follow-up on a meeting about three weeks ago with congressional Democrats. That meeting had been seen as productive and positive. And this was supposed to be a follow-up.

Then over on Capitol Hill, Democrats earlier in the morning were having a meeting of their caucus to talk about impeachment. In a way, it was a meeting to sort of let off steam. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not - has resisted moving forward with any sort of impeachment proceedings. And the goal of that meeting was sort of to talk through the progress that they've been making on the various and many congressional investigations that are ongoing.

So then Speaker Pelosi walks out of the meeting and says this.


NANCY PELOSI: Would you believe that it's important for us to follow the facts? We believe that no one is above the law, including the president of the United States. And we believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.

KELLY: Engaged in a cover-up - and she said this, Tam, right before going over to meet with the president at the White House.

KEITH: Yep, that's right. The meeting at the White House was supposed to start shortly after that. And it started, but it didn't last very long. And in fact, even as the meeting was supposed to be ongoing, the White House press corps was called to the Rose Garden, where a podium or lectern had been set up with a sign on it saying, no collusion, no obstruction.

President Trump left the meeting very quickly, didn't even sit down, we're told by Democrats. And he came out to the Rose Garden and complained - complained about what Pelosi had said, specifically that phrase, cover-up. And then this is what he said.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I walked into the room, and I told Senator 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 phony investigations over with.

KEITH: Yeah. So he's saying, get the investigations over with. There was no talk of infrastructure in that meeting. There was actually no talk from anyone other than President Trump. He left before anyone else had a chance to say anything.

KELLY: Well, so where does this leave infrastructure, which, as you said, they had had positive, productive meetings on just three weeks ago? I mean, it's become a little bit of a joke, talking about Infrastructure Week in Washington, but it looked as though that effort might go somewhere not very long ago.

KEITH: Right. So the White House, though, last night signaled - the president sent a letter to the leaders saying, you know, infrastructure is great, but I really want you to pass and ratify a replacement for NAFTA, the USMCA trade deal. He wanted them to do that first.

Now, Democrats insisted they came to this meeting with a plan on what to do for infrastructure, how to pay for it. The reality is the fact that this blew up is perhaps less surprising than the fact that three weeks ago they had a meeting where they came out relatively happy and agreed to keep talking.

Earlier in the year, at the very beginning of the year, at - in his State of the Union address, President Trump said to Democrats they had to choose between peace and legislation and war and investigation.

KELLY: Right.

KEITH: And he said something similar today.


TRUMP: You probably can't go down two tracks. You can go down the investigation track. And you can go down the investment track or the track of let's get things done for the American people. I love the American people.

KEITH: There's a lot of basic governing that needs to be done. And it's unclear where this blowup today leaves that.

KELLY: Yeah - leaves the ability of anything to get done in Washington with the president saying he won't work with Democrats as long as they investigate him and Democrats showing no sign of backing off on those investigations. Tamara Keith at the White House, thank you.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Tamara Keith
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. In that time, she has chronicled the final years of the Obama administration, covered Hillary Clinton's failed bid for president from start to finish and thrown herself into documenting the Trump administration, from policy made by tweet to the president's COVID diagnosis and the insurrection. In the final year of the Trump administration and the first year of the Biden administration, she focused her reporting on the White House response to the COVID-19 pandemic.