As of Friday, Republican lawmakers will have just two weeks to determine how to keep the government open, or risk another huge dip in their approval ratings — according to Gallup, the 35-day shutdown contributed to an 8 percent drop in the polls for the GOP. But the person who has final word on the whole deal, President Trump, isn’t all that interested in the bipartisan panel hoping to stave off the second shutdown in two months.
In an interview with the New York Times on Thursday, Trump told reporters that he considers the negotiations “a waste of time,” and suggested he “will most likely take action on his own,” when the talks end on February 15. With a Diet Coke sitting on the Resolute Desk, Trump did not explicitly state that he would declare a national emergency to build the wall, saying, “I’ve set the table. I’ve set the stage for doing what I’m going to do.” Meanwhile, Democrats released details on Thursday of their opening bid for the deal, which included $56 billion in spending for the Department of Homeland Security — without any mention of a wall or fencing.
Conveniently for the president — who tweeted that a bill without wall funding is a “waste of money and time and energy” — Republicans doing the actual negotiating don’t want him near the conversation. According to a report from the Hill, GOP lawmakers want the president to leave the 17-person, bipartisan panel alone as they figure out a deal. Republican senator Richard Shelby said that “if the speaker, the president and everybody, the leaders of our parties in the Senate, would let us, the appropriators, do our job, we could do this.” Susan Collins, the Republican senator from Maine, said “it would be more worthwhile and effective if the president would allow some space for these negotiations to occur.” And Democratic senator Jon Tester laughed when he was asked if he hoped that Trump and Pelosi would provide room to negotiate.
The interview with the Times came together when the president reached out to publisher A.G. Sulzberger, asking him if he would join him for an off-the-record dinner — an offer Sulzberger declined. Instead, in the mood for a decompression rant, Trump agreed to an interview in which he discussed the shutdown, claimed he never spoke with Roger Stone about stolen Democratic emails, and said he’s “lost massive amounts of money doing this job.” Trump also weighed in on the nascent Democratic primary, repeating his Pocahontas slur in reference to Elizabeth Warren — who he believes is not doing well. The president, who has a history of pronouncing words incorrectly, said that “the best opening so far would be [Kameela] Harris.”