After publicly confronting President Donald Trump at the White House two days ago about his frequent citing of false information, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday continued to question his grasp of facts.
“I think the Oval Office is an evidence free zone,” the California Democrat said. “You’ve got to have facts, data, evidence, truth in order to make an agreement on how you go forward.”
Pelosi was responding to a question about Trump’s tweet Thursday morning that said Mexico will still be paying for a wall he’s trying to build along the U.S. border with that country “just by the money we save” through the revised North American Free Trade Agreement.
Pelosi said the president made a similar assertion at the meeting she and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had with him Tuesday in the White House.
“He said that. But it doesn’t make any sense,” she said. “Does that sound familiar to you? It doesn’t make any sense.”
Trump’s remark about Mexico paying for the wall through the trade agreement appears to have been made during the private portion of Tuesday’s meeting.
But during the first 15 minutes that were aired live when Trump opted to let the press observe, Pelosi confronted the president about his false statements on the wall and border security. She said he had taken the conversation “to a place that is devoid, frankly, of fact.”
She urged Trump to dismiss the press so they could debate and negotiate in private, but he declined, saying it was about “transparency.” “It’s not transparency when we’re not stipulating to a set of facts,” Pelosi responded. “We wanted to have a debate with you … without saying to the public, ‘This isn’t true.’”
But ultimately that’s what Pelosi and Schumer did, and have continued to do, as Trump’s contention about how much of the border wall is already built and why $5 billion more is needed has come under question.
Watch: Pelosi on Trump Shutdown, Border Wall, Mexico and Press Coverage
Pelosi on Thursday reiterated that she didn’t want to have to continue to call out Trump’s false assertions “out of respect for the office that he holds,” even as she laughed at his remark about Mexico paying for the wall through the revised trade agreement.
“Really? Really? First of all, he doesn’t even have the trade agreement,” she said, referring to the fact that the deal requires congressional approval, something her incoming House Democratic majority is not yet ready to give.“Let’s see the enforcement in the agreement for environment, for worker rights, for some of the pharmaceutical issues and other health-related provisions.”
Pelosi said she’s open to a revised trade agreement but said Trump’s suggestion that the economic benefits of it would be used to pay for the wall is “opportunity cost for our country if it were so, but it is not.”
“Basically what he’s saying is any benefit our economy might have from a trade agreement, a revised trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, would be spent on the wall instead of growing our economy and increasing paychecks for our workers,” she said.
“The American people are still paying the price,” Pelosi continued. “Mexico is not paying for this wall. But maybe he doesn’t understand how a trade agreement works for him to say such a thing.”
Avoiding a shutdown
Pelosi said she has not spoken to Trump since he called her Tuesday after the White House meeting in what she said was a “very amicable conversation.”
But Trump has still not responded to the two options the Democratic leaders provided him for keeping all agencies of the government open beyond Dec. 21.
Pelosi and Schumer’s preferred option is to pass six of the seven remaining appropriations bills that House and Senate negotiators basically have agreement on and to fund the seventh bill for Homeland Security with a continuing resolution that extends current funding through Sept. 30 next year.
The second option they have said they’d agree to is a CR for all seven bills lasting through Sept. 30.
“We haven’t had an answer,” she said. “Some of what I’m hearing on the Hill is that we might be more likely to have a CR on all seven bills that goes until the end of September.”
If the impasse remains and there is a partial shutdown because of a funding lapse on Dec. 21, Pelosi said there’s no doubt it will be the president’s fault after his comments Tuesday.
“He’s taking full responsibility for a Trump shutdown,” she said. “Perhaps he doesn’t understand that people need their paychecks.”
If there were a shutdown lasting into January, Pelosi said the new Democratic House majority would quickly pass legislation to reopen government.
“But we don’t have to go to that place,” she said.
Pelosi also reiterated her view that Republicans “do not have the votes to pass the president’s proposal” for $5 billion in border wall funding.
“Nothing is going to change in that regard,” she said.