Something about Nancy Pelosi just gets under Donald Trump’s skin.
On Wednesday, for the third time in barely six months, a meeting between the president, the speaker and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blew up in spectacular fashion.
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And in each case, Trump handed Pelosi a huge gift, a priceless moment that helped unify the Democratic Caucus behind her at a crucial time.
“She’s smarter than him, and she’s tougher than him, and I think that bothers him,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), a Pelosi ally. “It’s hard to get inside that head of his and figure out what drives him, other than an oversized ego and an undersized sense of ethics.”
Trump doesn’t have a condescending nickname for the speaker as he does for other Democrats. He even appears to have a grudging respect for Pelosi, the first woman to serve as House speaker. He treats her as a peer who commands her chamber with a firm hand, and he knows she can deliver on votes, and that she is willing to call any bluff at any time.
The latest episode of “Trump vs. Pelosi” featured Trump storming out of a planned White House meeting with Pelosi, Schumer and other top Democrats over a proposed $2 trillion infrastructure package.
It was just the type of explosion that allows Democrats to portray the president as unreliable, tempestuous and impossible to negotiate with. And Trump’s refusal to cut any deals with Democrats while they engage in oversight — something every president has to live with — backs up what Democrats have said since the 2016 campaign: Trump is only out for Trump, not the American public.
“Guess what? He behaves like a child. This is what we have in the White House now,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who served under Pelosi in the House. “I’m used to it. I’m not expecting a grown-up any longer. I’m not expecting him to grow into the role.”
And for Pelosi, the timing is perfect. As the drumbeat for impeachment grows within her caucus, she can argue that what they’re doing is already working. Trump clearly doesn’t know how to respond to the barrage of Democratic investigations; they’re winning in the courts and he’s throwing fits. So why bother with impeachment, especially when Democrats know that a GOP-run Senate isn’t going to remove him from office?
Meanwhile, the Trump-Pelosi confrontations are getting to be recurring spectacles, and even Republicans know it hurts the president’s image.
“It’s a disaster,” said a senior Republican who requested anonymity. “It plays right into her hands.”
Last December, Trump clashed with Schumer and Pelosi over his border wall in front of TV cameras. Then during talks to end the ensuing government shutdown in January, Trump slammed his hand on the table and walked out when Pelosi refused to yield on funding for the wall.
“It seems like anytime she strikes a nerve… he freaks out,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.). “I think he realizes the walls are closing in on him.”
Wednesday’s blow-up also has very real implications for the president’s near-term agenda.
Democrats and Republicans were nearing a two-year budget deal with the White House; Pelosi and Schumer had been in general agreement with Trump on the need to do infrastructure; and the president was beginning an urgent campaign to get his new trade agreement through Congress. All these efforts could be stalled if Trump follows through on his threat to refuse any deal-making — which would only damage the president’s reelection campaign.
Still, the collapse of yet another infrastructure week wasn’t a complete surprise.
It was clear by Tuesday night that Trump was having second thoughts about the gathering, which grew out of a surprisingly cordial White House meeting several weeks ago in which the president rebuffed some of his own advisers to set a massive, $2 trillion goal with Democrats.
Trump warned in a letter that night that he would do an infrastructure deal only if Congress first passed the new North American free trade agreement he negotiated with Mexico and Canada. Pelosi and other Democrats have serious concerns about the UnitedStates-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, so they were already wary about a potential Trump ambush as they headed to the White House on Wednesday.
Republicans, who were excluded from the infrastructure talks, have been playing down Trump and Democratic leaders’ bipartisan aspirations for weeks.
“Meetings that don’t include the leadership of both parties are unlikely to go anywhere but take a negative turn,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
But what actually set off Trump on Wednesday was a comment from Pelosi earlier in the day. Coming out of a closed-door session with fellow Democrats in which she argued against beginning an impeachment inquiry against Trump, Pelosi said the president “is engaged in a cover-up” of improper behavior.
That was all the president needed to torpedo the Cabinet Room session. An angry Trump accused Pelosi of saying “horrible, horrible things” and being “disrespectful,” then stormed out of the room for a Rose Garden news conference.
“It is the nature of this president’s temperament to blow up with frequency. And perhaps Nancy and Chuck are catalysts of that from time to time,” said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who was present for Wednesday’s drama.
After Trump said he wouldn’t discuss infrastructure or any other legislative priorities until the investigations ended, the meeting ended with a pointed exchange between Pelosi and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, according to two people familiar with the meeting.
Conway asked the speaker to respond to Trump, who had already left the room.
“I’m responding to the president, not staff,” Pelosi said.
Conway countered sarcastically: “That’s really pro-woman of you.”
Out in the Rose Garden, Trump railed against special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, then took a shot at Pelosi. “This whole thing was a take-down attempt of the president of the United States,” Trump declared.
“I don’t do cover-ups,” Trump added.
Pelosi punched back when she returned to Capitol Hill, saying she prays for Trump and the entire country.
“For some reason, maybe it was lack of confidence on his part that he couldn’t match the greatness of the challenge we have… he just took a pass,” Pelosi said at a news conference.
Trump’s Republican allies, meanwhile, quickly fell in line behind the president, at least publicly, in the latest sign that Pelosi’s probes have zero support on the other side of the Capitol.
“Ridiculous. To accuse the president of the United States of a cover-up is absolutely inappropriate,” said Sen. David Perdue of Georgia.
“The president’s just tired of getting verbally assaulted every day. … To have her continue that kind of slander is probably hard to take,” said Texas Sen. John Cornyn.
Pelosi, though, knows that Trump can rail against her on TV and Twitter, but he still needs her to do anything important, including keeping the federal government open or raising the nation’s debt limit.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had urged a speedy conclusion to budget negotiations, perhaps in an acknowledgment of how critical it was to seize the bipartisan moment given the up-and-down nature of Trump’s relationship with Democrats.
Now some on Capitol Hill worry that the president will disengage from spending negotiations, too, since House Democrats have no intention of breaking off their investigations.
“Whether he likes it or not, sequestration is coming roaring back. We have a debt ceiling we’ve got to raise. And we have a budget deal we’ve got to reach. Or we face a real risk,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) “Robust congressional oversight is part of the structure and history of our country. And he’s going to have to answer some questions.”
Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.
Democratic leaders fixated on the decor of the room after President Trump abruptly shut down an infrastructure meeting at the White House on Wednesday.
Two lawmakers — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. — noted how the Cabinet Room was set up in an uninviting fashion when they arrived.
“It’s clear that this was not a spontaneous move on the president’s part. It was planned,” Schumer told reporters. “When we got in the room, the curtains were closed. The president — there was a place for him at the front so he could stand and attempt to tell us why he wouldn’t do infrastructure. And of course then he went to the Rose Garden with prepared signs that had been printed up long before our meeting.”
In an interview with MSNBC, Hoyer also mentioned the curtains, as well as the lack of a certain chair.
“When we walked into the Cabinet Room, it was different,” Hoyer said. “And what was different was the curtains were drawn on the windows looking out on the Rose Garden. So — which I said, ‘That’s kind of funny. I wonder if somebody was taking pictures or something and made a mistake and didn’t put the curtains back in place.’ So we could not see outside of the room.”
While they waited for the president, whom Hoyer said was 10 minutes late, he also noticed there was no chair where he usually sits.
“So there is no doubt in my mind this was a show with no go on infrastructure,” he added.
WATCH: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer describes the scene inside the White House before the president walked out on Democrats #MTPDaily@LeaderHoyer: “When we walked into the Cabinet room… the curtains were drawn on the windows looking out on the Rose Garden.” pic.twitter.com/by0lb8ckHH
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) May 22, 2019
After a brief three-minute encounter, Trump left the room and addressed reporters in the Rose Garden. He said he was particularly upset about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., suggesting he engaged in a “cover-up.”
“Instead of walking in happily into a meeting, I walk in to look at people that have just said that I was doing a cover-up. I don’t do cover-ups,” Trump said. Trump said Democrats would have to drop investigations before he could work with them.
Pelosi told reporters after the scrapped meeting that Trump “wasn’t really respectful of the reason — of the Congress and the White House working together.”
“He just took a pass,” she added. “And it just makes me wonder why he did that.”
The House is set to pass legislation on Thursday that would fix a quirk in the 2017 GOP tax overhaul that has generated big tax hikes on federal survivor benefits for certain Gold Star families. The bill would then go to President Trump’s desk.
“It is outrageous and unacceptable [that] children that have survived so much are now forced to pay thousands of additional dollars in taxes on their benefits,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “Tomorrow, the House will pass a bipartisan, urgently needed fix.”
“I think if it does pass, it will be a good way to fix an unintended outcome that has hurt a lot of families,” said Yasin Wade, spokeswoman for the Tragedy Assistant Program for Survivors, a nonprofit advocacy group.
The tax hikes in question resulted from a provision in the tax overhaul interacting with a common workaround that Gold Star families use to maximize survivor benefits.
The workaround is that some families put Defense Department benefits in a child’s name so that they can claim death benefits from both the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Otherwise, they would be prevented from claiming both benefits by rules intended to prevent double-dipping — a situation referred to as the ‘military widow’s tax.’
The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by Republicans and signed by Trump re-defined the benefits accruing to children as “unearned income,” subjecting them to higher estate tax rates.
The change resulted in some military families discovering that taxes on the Defense Department benefits they had put in a child’s name had soared by as much as five times or more this year, forcing many to scramble in order to cover the liability.
The Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed legislation, dubbed the Gold Star Families Tax Relief Act, to address the problem. A House version of that bill has been added as an amendment to bipartisan legislation on retirement and estate planning that House will take up on Thursday.
The Gold Star Families Tax Relief says that benefits put in the name of child of a deceased service member will be taxed as earned income, which would put them under the income tax bracket of the child’s surviving parent or guardian, restoring the pre-2017 standard.
The 2017 tax code change was intended to prevent the wealthy from avoiding estate taxes, according to individuals involved in the reform bill’s drafting, and nobody foresaw that it would ensnare military families too. The number may be in the thousands, given the number of families who receive the benefits. Those families are just a subsection of the ones hit by the widow’s tax, Wade noted. Those without children, among others, didn’t have that option in the first place.
Wade said the bill headed for passage Thursday still wouldn’t fix the underlying issue of the military widow’s tax but instead would only address the problems of the families who saw major tax hikes this year. “It’ll just be a fraction of the 62,000 families that are affected,” she said.
“I lost my husband seven years ago, and that was when I learned of the widow’s tax,” said Gabby Kubinyi, a New Jersey widow who now works for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “It is unacceptable and wrong that we are asked to continue to sacrifice when that is what we have already done.”
Separate legislation by Reps. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., and John Yarmuth, D-Ky., has been introduced to end the prohibition on double-dipping. It currently has 152 bipartisan co-sponsors.
“I am confident that with the number of cosponsors we have we can get the necessary funding appropriated to cover this,” Wilson said at a Capitol Hill rally Wednesday.
The White House is denying charges that it intentionally created a spectacle Wednesday when President Trump walked out of a White House meeting with Democratic leaders and headed to the Rose Garden for a press conference.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., one of the attendees, accused the president of preplanning a stunt and avoiding the issue of paying for an infrastructure bill, the intended subject of the meeting. “To watch what happened in the White House would make your jaw drop,” he said in a joint press conference with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who was also left to cool her heels in the Cabinet Room.
A White House official denied that the move was “not spontaneous,” saying Schumer’s claim was “completely false.”
The meeting, closed to the press, was scheduled for 11:15 am. Democrats waited for the president for 15 minutes, according to a person familiar with what happened in the room. Upon entering the Cabinet Room, the president did not shake hands with anyone. He spoke for about three minutes about wanting to work on infrastructure, a trade agreement, a farm bill and other things. But he then asserted that Pelosi had “said something terrible” by accusing him of a cover-up earlier in the day and said that he would not work on infrastructure while the investigations continued.
“POTUS told the Democrats that once your investigation is done — we can talk about these things. And then he left the room before anyone else could speak,” the person said.
At around 11:15 a.m., the scheduled time of the meeting, the White House press office called reporters to gather for what appeared to be an impromptu press conference in the Rose Garden.
They discovered the White House had placed a new white and blue sign on Trump’s podium with the words, “No collusion, no obstruction,” and a few statistics on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, such as the roughly 2,500 subpoenas and 500 witnesses involved.
After the press conference ended, White House officials handed reporters printouts titled “Mueller Probe by the Numbers.” The papers, printed in blue and black ink, also offered several statistics related to the probe.
The props were designed to hammer home the president’s “no collusion, no obstruction” message about the findings of Mueller’s investigation.
Democrats said it was an obvious setup, but the sign on the president’s lectern was printed several weeks ago and was not created specifically for today’s Rose Garden conference, the Washington Examiner has learned.
During the press conference, Trump said he had laid down requirements for restarting negotiations.
“I just wanted to let you know that I walked into the room and I told Sen. 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,’” the president said. “‘So, get these phony investigations over with.’”
Schumer wasn’t having any of it.
“There were investigations going on three weeks ago when we met, and he still met with us. But now that he was forced to actually say how he’d pay for it, he had to run away, and he came up with this preplanned excuse, and one final point: It’s clear that this was not a spontaneous move on the president’s part,” Schumer added. “It was planned.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., also suggested that the president had “no intention” of working on infrastructure at the meeting.
“It was clear the President had no intention of working with us today,” Hoyer said. “This meeting was a show, and it is deeply disappointing the President walked out on us and the American people.”
Trump and Democrats have been struggling to work together on infrastructure for months, but negotiations have repeatedly been derailed. In the past 24 hours, prospects dimmed even further when Trump told Democrats that he wanted to pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement before working on infrastructure, and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Democrats would need to figure out their own priorities on infrastructure before a conversation could take place on funding.
Wednesday morning’s blowup further diminishes prospects for an infrastructure deal. Trump said Wednesday that he would not be willing to work on infrastructure unless Democrats halted their investigations.
The House is expected to pass a measure Thursday that some Republican lawmakers are grumbling was gutted of provisions supporting families with home-schooled children.
Language from the Student Empowerment Act expanding tax-advantaged savings accounts to cover K-12 education expenses was included in the version of the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement, or SECURE, Act unanimously approved by the Ways and Means Committee, according to GOP aides. But the text related to 529 savings accounts was taken out by the House Rules Committee, a panel heavily influenced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. The staffers allege House Democrats “caved” to teachers unions and “a small handful” of their conference because the bill text would have applied to home-schooled students as well.
Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., who introduced the Student Empowerment Act with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, slammed Democrats for sabotaging his attempt to alleviate the cost of “children’s unique education needs,” no matter how they were schooled, as well as “educational therapies for students with disabilities” and “standardized testing fees.”
“When something passes out of committee unanimously, you expect to vote on it on the floor of the House of Representatives, not have it stripped out behind closed doors. Backroom deals like this undermine the bipartisan work we do on the Ways and Means Committee and are exactly what people hate about Washington,” the House Republican Conference’s secretary told the Washington Examiner. “I can’t wrap my head around why the Democrat party, who claims to be the party of education, would object to helping families afford everyday education expenses. But the swamp does funny things to people.”
House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., who introduced the SECURE Act, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither did spokesmen representing Pelosi’s office, the National Education Association, and the American Federation of Teachers.
GOP leadership this week sought to use the squabble as an example of Democrats stymieing collaborative efforts between lawmakers in Congress.
“I would really like to do bipartisan legislation,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters on Tuesday. “Now we watch in the SECURE Act that deals with pensions. The ability for parents to have a 529 account to save money for their children’s further education or if they have a disabled child, it came out of committee with all the Republicans and all the Democrats voting for it, but again it goes to the leadership. The unions did not like the idea that a parent could save money for the books for their children for home schooling. So politics again won out, and they put a poison pill in it.”
Despite the behind-the-scenes drama, GOP members are expected to back the measure, a Republican leadership aide told the Washington Examiner.
“It’s unfortunate Democrats decided to play politics by stripping out bipartisan 529 provisions, but we all agree we have to take care of Gold Star families as outlined in the bill that will be on the floor,” the staffer said.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway slammed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after President Trump abruptly shut down an infrastructure meeting at the White House on Wednesday.
“I knew he was looking for a way out,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said when Trump left the room after only three minutes, according to the New York Times. “We were expecting this.”
Conway, who was in the room, replied: “Respectfully, Madam Speaker, do you have a direct response to the president?”
Pelosi said she was responding to the president and not his staff.
“Really great,” Conway said sarcastically. “That’s really pro-woman of you.”
After leaving the meeting, which also included Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Trump addressed reporters in the Rose Garden and said he was particularly upset about Pelosi suggesting he engaged in a cover-up during special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
“Instead of walking in happily into a meeting, I walk in to look at people that have just said that I was doing a cover-up. I don’t do cover-ups,” Trump said.
Trump said Democrats would have to drop investigations before he could work with them.
- President Donald Trump referred to impeachment as the “I-word” in an impromptu press conference on Wednesday in which he blasted Democratic leaders.
- This came after House Democrats discussed the prospect of impeaching Trump in a caucus meeting earlier in the day, after which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the president is engaged in a “cover-up.”
- The impeachment discussion and Pelosi’s remarks led Trump to more or less scrap a meeting with Democratic leaders on infrastructure.
- “This meeting was set up a number of days ago,” Trump said in the Rose Garden. “All of a sudden I hear last night they’re going to have a meeting right before this meeting to talk about the ‘I-word.’ The ‘I-word.’ Can you imagine?”
- Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday expressed disgust that Democrats discussed impeachment, which he referred to as the “I-word,” during a caucus meeting earlier in the day.
During a press conference in the Rose Garden that followed a meeting meant to focus on infrastructure with Democratic leaders, the president said, “This meeting was set up a number of days ago. All of a sudden I hear last night they’re going to have a meeting right before this meeting to talk about the ‘I-word.’ The ‘I-word.’ Can you imagine?”
Trump said he’d scrapped the infrastructure meeting due to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s assertion on Wednesday morning that the president is engaged in a “cover-up.”
Pelosi was seemingly referencing the Trump administration’s efforts to stonewall House investigations into the president and its refusal to comply with subpoenas.
The House speaker has faced pressure to move toward impeachment from fellow Democrats but has expressed a reluctance to do so due to the potential political consequences, including backlash from voters in the 2020 election.
But after Trump’s last-minute press conference, Pelosi took her biggest step yet toward embracing impeachment.
“In plain sight, this president is obstructing justice and is engaged in a cover-up,” Pelosi said at the Center for American Progress’ annual Ideas Conference. “And that could be an impeachable offense.”
The special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the probe he spearheaded into Russian election interference outlined 11 possible instances of obstruction by Trump, which the House Judiciary Committee is continuing to investigate.
FILE PHOTO – U.S. President Donald Trump reacts as he addresses a Trump 2020 re-election campaign rally in Montoursville, Pennsylvania, U.S. May 20, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
May 22, 2019
NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York state’s legislature on Wednesday passed a bill that would make it easier for U.S. congressional committees investigating President Donald Trump to get access to his state tax returns.
The Democratic-controlled state Assembly and Senate voted along party lines on the measure, which would circumvent his refusal to hand over his federal tax returns to Congress.
New York Republicans who opposed the bill called it an abuse of power that fed into the political designs of Democrats in Washington, the Albany Times-Union reported. It now goes to Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo for final approval.
Trump has refused to release any of his tax returns, breaking a decades-long tradition of U.S. presidents making their personal finances public to demonstrate that they have no conflicts of interest.
Although the bill does not name Trump, it allows the state Department of Taxation and Finance to share state tax return information with a congressional committee that requests it. Much of the information submitted in New York state tax returns is similar to that on federal forms.
Trump and Democrats who control the U.S. House of Representatives are locked in a battle over their ability to investigate him.
The president is stonewalling multiple congressional investigations by ignoring subpoenas, refusing to allow current and former advisers to testify, and not handing over documents.
For example the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee requested Trump’s federal tax returns by subpoena but the request was denied by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Trump’s personal home and the headquarters for his business are in New York, requiring him to file state tax returns in addition to his federal returns.
“New York has a unique role to help head off the constitutional crisis brewing between Congress and the White House over refusal to comply with the request for Donald Trump’s tax returns,” said the bill’s sponsor, Senator Brad Hoylman, according to the Times-Union. “We are affirming Congress’ role as a co-equal branch of government and the sacred constitutional principle that nobody is above the law, not even the highest elected official in the land.”
In comments to reporters on Wednesday, Trump criticized Democrats for continuing their wide-ranging follow-up to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
“I don’t do cover-ups,” Trump said, responding to a charge made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just moments ago.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the New York legislation.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
President Trump on Wednesday cut off infrastructure talks with congressional Democratic leaders after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said he was engaged in a “cover up,” then lit into Democrats and declared he would not work with them until their investigations are over.
Source: Real Clear Politics
There’s no doubt President Trump pulled a stunt on Wednesday.
He invited congressional leaders House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to the White House under the pretext of negotiating an infrastructure bill, only to emerge minutes later declaring there would be no deal unless Democrats stop their endless charade about Russia and tax returns.
But at least the public knows that Democrats have a choice: They can legislate and secure a win on an agenda item they’ve been pushing for since the Obama years, or they can keep up the political game over the nonexistent Russia conspiracy and continue digging for Trump’s tax papers.
No, they can’t have it all. Politics is a business of trade-offs, and I don’t know a single person who would give me something I want if they know I’m going to go on TV immediately after and call them a lying criminal. But that’s what Democrats are asking for.
The endless probes into Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Russia collusion that never was, his tax history, and his personal business is exactly today what it was two years ago: political.
It has worked. Trump’s presidency is handicapped by the accusation that he worked with Russia to steal the 2016 election, even if he was cleared. There’s a perpetual cloud over the White House with Democrats pushing conspiracy theories about Trump and his family, their businesses, and personal lives.
And for that he’s supposed to do what? Hand Democrats a $2 trillion package on national infrastructure? The legislation has upsides for everyone but more so for Democrat who have pushed the cause for years. But what does Trump have to gain from it if Democrats are going to attempt to embarrass him at every turn before the 2020 election?
Pelosi left the meeting Wednesday stating that she will “pray” for Trump. Well, I’m sure he’s grateful for that.