Trump sends Democratic leaders packing after Pelosi’s accusation of cover-up

May 22, 2019

A visibly disgusted President Trump announced Wednesday he won’t work with Democrats while they’re seeking to impeach him, cutting short a meeting with Democratic leaders at the White House and vowing to go it alone until Democrats finish their “phony investigations.”

“I don’t do cover-ups,” Mr. Trump told reporters in a hastily arranged Rose Garden session with reporters, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s accusation an hour earlier that the president was engaged in a coverup of the Russia investigation.

When she and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer arrived at the White House for a scheduled meeting on infrastructure spending, the president instead told them that he can’t work with them on any legislation while many Democrats are trying to impeach him.

“I’ve said from the beginning that you probably can’t go down two tracks,” the president told reporters. “I walked into the room and I told Senator [Charles] Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, ‘I want to do infrastructure. I want to do it more than you want to do it. But you can’t do it under these circumstances. So get these phony investigations over with.’”

Aides said the meeting lasted only a few minutes, and the president balked at shaking hands with the Democrats, instead confronting Mrs. Pelosi about her accusation of a cover-up.

Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer, in their own response press conference, said despite their antipathy to the president, they had gone to the White House expecting to work on the infrastructure deal.

Mr. Schumer held up what he said was a 35-page infrastructure plan he said he was prepared to give to Mr. Trump but he said the president wanted to blow the process up, instead.

He doubted Mr. Trump’s explanation that Mrs. Pelosi’s comments about cover-up sparked the fury. He said Mr. Trump instead appeared to be looking for reasons to refuse to work together.

“It’s clear that this was not a spontaneous move on the president’s part. It was planned,” the New York Democrat said.

Mrs. Pelosi said the president “just took a pass” on working with them.

“I pray for the president of the United States,” she told reporters.

Mr. Schumer said the meeting at the White House “would make your jaw drop.”

“We are interested in doing infrastructure,” Mr. Schumer said. “It’s clear the president isn’t. He came up with this pre-planned excuse.”

Mr. Trump recited his lengthy and unprecedented cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which found no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign in 2016. Mr. Mueller didn’t reach a conclusion on obstruction of justice, but Attorney General William P. Barr determined from the report that the president didn’t engage in obstruction.

“I’m the most transparent president probably in the history of the country,” Mr. Trump said.

“Think of that, 500 witnesses. And then I have Nancy Pelosi go out and say that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up. We’ve had a House investigation, we have Senate investigations. We have investigations like nobody’s ever had before. We did nothing wrong. They would have loved to have said we colluded.”

Mr. Trump said with scorn, “Let them play their games. We’re going to go down one track at a time.”

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen is serving time in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to eight federal crimes, including campaign finance violations, related to payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels to cover up an alleged affair with Mr. Trump. Federal prosecutors said Cohen made those payments “in coordination with and at the direction of” Mr. Trump, an accusation that the president has consistently denied.

The White House press conference was unusual and put Mr. Trump’s showmanship on full display.

White House officials told the entire press corps to gather for an impromptu event, before leading reporters into the Rose Garden.

A sign on the president’s lectern rattled off stats on the Mueller probe, including “2,800 subpoenas,” “500+ witnesses,” “675 days” and “18 angry Democrats.”

Mr. Trump held up a piece of paper to underscore those numbers, and White House staff later handed out copies to gathered reporters.

Key White House aides watched the entire spectacle from the wings, including chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, counselor Kellyanne Conway and press secretary Sarah Sanders.

Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

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