WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump abruptly blew up an infrastructure meeting with Democratic leaders at the White House on Wednesday and declared that bipartisan cooperation was impossible while House committees are investigating him, underscoring the increasing combustibility between two warring branches of government.
Trump refused to even sit down when he walked into the scheduled Cabinet Room meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. He then headed to a hastily called news conference in the Rose Garden.
Trump told reporters there that he gave the surprised Democratic leaders an ultimatum, warning that they needed to choose between pursuing infrastructure or their increasingly aggressive investigations of his finances, businesses and administration, and the growing talk of launching impeachment hearings.
"You probably can't go down two tracks," he said. "You can go do the investigation track, or you can go down the investment track."
"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," said Trump. "But (we) can't do it under these circumstances."
It wasn't immediately clear what prompted the extraordinary political theater and whether it signaled the death knell to any infrastructure plan before the 2020 election, or indeed political compromises on any other key legislative issues, given the dramatic charges and countercharges.
Trump made clear he was irked by Pelosi's charges, at an earlier news conference, that the president's stonewalling of up to 20 House investigations amounts to a "cover-up."
"I don't do cover-ups," Trump said, blaming Democrats for what he called unfair harassment. "These people are out to get us," he said.
After returning to the Capitol, Democrats called their own news conference to say they were stunned by Trump's behavior.
"To watch what happens in the White House will make your jaw drop," Schumer said. "We are interested in doing infrastructure. It's clear the president isn't. He is looking for every excuse."