As The #TrumpShutdown Continues, The President Digs In Even Further

As the shutdown drags on, the President is digging in his heels even further.

As the government shutdown enters its third week, the President appears to be digging in and indicating that he’ll accept nothing less than the full $5 billion he has been demanding for his border wall:

President Donald Trump said Saturday that deliberations over funding for increased security measures along the U.S.-Mexico border were continuing this weekend, as a partial government shutdown triggered by partisan debate over his border wall proposal entered its third week.

“Great support coming from all sides for Border Security (including Wall) on our very dangerous Southern Border,” the president tweeted. “Teams negotiating this weekend! Washington Post and NBC reporting of events, including Fake sources, has been very inaccurate (to put it mildly)!”

In another post about a half hour later, Trump said congressional Democrats “could solve the Shutdown problem in a very short period of time” by ceding to his demand to fulfill a key campaign promise.

“All they have to do is approve REAL Border Security (including a Wall), something which everyone, other than drug dealers, human traffickers and criminals, want very badly! This would be so easy to do!” Trump wrote online.

In a tweet sent just before 10 a.m., the president wrote: “I don’t care that most of the workers not getting paid are Democrats, I want to stop the Shutdown as soon as we are in agreement on Strong Border Security! I am in the White House ready to go, where are the Dems?”

Trump had previously tweeted without evidence that most furloughed federal workers were Democrats.

The Washington Post notes that, in a meeting yesterday with Congressional leadership, the President said that he was prepared to let the shutdown go on for a month or even longer for the sake of his border wall. After that meeting, Trump made also made some vague comments about using his authority to declare a national emergency to get the wall built, although he didn’t make clear what he meant by that and didn’t make clear if he meant that he might try to use his authority as President to get the wall built even if Congress doesn’t appropriate funds. This mirrors suggestions he’s made in the past that he thinks he could use money that Congress has appropriated for other purposes to get the wall built. This action, however, would appear to be in direct violation of long-standing Federal laws regarding the Federal budget such as the Federal Budget And Accounting Act and the Congressional Budget And Impoundment Act of 1974. Of course, this may not matter to the President, who has expressed contempt for the Rule of Law and political norms in the past.

The New York Times, meanwhile, notes that while the President first attempted to blame Democrats for the shutdown he now appears to be back to proudly claiming credit for it:

WASHINGTON — At first, he vowed to “take the mantle” for closing part of the federal government. Then he blamed Democrats, saying they “now own the shutdown.” By Friday, President Trump was back to owning it again. “I’m very proud of doing what I’m doing,” he declared.

Two weeks into the showdown over a border wall, Mr. Trump is now crafting his own narrative of the confrontation that has come to consume his presidency. Rather than a failure of negotiation, the shutdown has become a test of political virility, one in which he insists he is receiving surreptitious support from unlikely quarters.

Not only are national security hawks cheering him on to defend a porous southern border, but so too are former presidents who he says have secretly confessed to him that they should have done what he is doing. Not only do federal employees accept being furloughed or forced to work without wages, they have assured him that they would give up paychecks so that he can stand strong.

Never mind how implausible such assertions might seem. The details do not matter to Mr. Trump as much as dominating the debate. After an oddly quiescent holiday season in which he complained via Twitter about being left at home alone — “poor me” — he has taken the public stage this week clearly intent on framing the conflict on his own terms.

People close to the president described him as emboldened since members of Congress returned to Washington after the break, giving him not only a clear target to swing at but helping him focus on a fight that he is convinced is a political winner. One aide said Mr. Trump believes he has gained the upper hand in the public battle.

Although surveys at first showed more Americans blaming him for the shutdown than Democrats, later polling showed the fault more evenly split. And the voters he cares most about, his core conservative supporters, are more enthusiastic than the public at large. He has told people that “my people” love the fight, and that he believes he is winning.

In the past three days, Mr. Trump has appeared in public three times to get his version of the story out while Democrats celebrated their takeover of the House. At a lengthy cabinet meeting on Wednesday, an appearance with border patrol union leaders on Thursday and a news conference with Republican congressional leaders in the Rose Garden on Friday, he engaged in quintessentially Trumpian stream of conscious discussions that ranged widely and unpredictably.

At one point, he argued that the Soviet Union was right to invade Afghanistan in 1979 to stop terrorists, a revisionist version that provoked a strong reaction in Kabul and earned a sharp rebuke from the often supportive editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, which said, “We cannot recall a more absurd misstatement of history by an American President.”

At another point, Mr. Trump mocked India for doing no more in Afghanistan than building a library, which generated headlines in New Delhi about the “jab” at its prime minister, not to mention more head scratching because, according to Indian news media, the country has not built a library in Afghanistan in many years.

He repeatedly claimed that the new trade agreement he has negotiated with Mexico and Canada means that Mexico really is paying for the wall, even though the pact has yet to be approved by Congress and has no direct connection to border security. He has made misleading claims about how many terrorists might be coming across the border.

Mr. Trump’s version of events differed even from the other people in the room at Friday’s meeting at the White House. When Democratic congressional leaders emerged after two hours, they described a “contentious” session with no meaningful progress as the president threatened to keep the government closed for “months or even years.” When Mr. Trump emerged shortly afterward, he described a “very, very productive meeting” and predicted the standoff could be “fixed very quickly.”

Two people briefed on the meeting said that White House officials viewed the conversation as the first civil discussion that had taken place between the two sides, and it left some of Mr. Trump’s aides hopeful. Indeed, Mr. Trump made a point of publicly saying nothing but relatively positive things about the Democrats on Friday.

Not surprisingly, the President has been tweeting about all of this:

As things stand, there is a delegation from the White House led by Vice-President Pence meeting with staffers from the House and Senate regarding trying to come up with some kind of agreement that both sides can agree to that would lead to at least a temporary reopening of the government, or even a more permanent deal that would reopen most of the Federal Government while pushing the debate over border wall funding down the road, perhaps to be part of a more comprehensive immigration package. The odds of any such deal happening immediately, though, seem rather dim since both sides are fairly well dug in on their position and neither side has an incentive to move. How long that lasts is unclear, though. We have yet to see any new polling on the shutdown so it’s unclear how the public is reacting to all of this, but if previous polls are any indication this likely isn’t working out to the favor of Republicans in general and the President specifically. Additionally, as the shutdown continues the media is starting to fill up on “impact” stories showing the impact of the shutdown itself, ranging from closed museums in Washington D.C. and Federal workers who are finding themselves forced to apply for unemployment compensation as the shutdown drags on to married couples in Washington, D.C. being unable to get marriage licenses since the District’s budget is tied up in the shutdown and Federal Courts facing a funding shortfall in coming days as the efforts to rely on money from fines and other sources comes to an end. The shutdown is also having an impact outside the Federal Government as Federal contractors and businesses that rely on Federal workers are starting to feel the pinch. Finally, people who rely on food stamps and early tax filers looking to get their refunds from the Internal Revenue Service are likely to be impacted as the shutdown goes on. Of course, as one of the President’s tweets above indicates, he doesn’t care about the Federal workers his shutdown is hurting.

As things stand, it’s unlikely that the weekend will see any kind of resolution to this shutdown over the weekend. At this point, it seems as if both sides are still feeling each other out, even then nothing can happen unless the President agrees to it and, so far, there’s no indication that he’s willing to agree on much of anything. He still seems to believe that the very fact of a shutdown is a political win for him and as long as that’s the case there’s not likely to be any movement at all. At the very least this means that this shutdown will last through Monday, meaning that it will officially surpass the length of the 2013 shutdown, the second-longest in American history. If it stretches to Saturday of next week it will officially be the longest in American history. How far it goes beyond that is anyone’s guess, and is entirely in the President’s court.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Borders and Immigration, Congress, Deficit and Debt, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. mattbernius says:

    there is a delegation from the White House led by Vice-President Pence meeting with staffers from the House and Senate regarding trying to come up with some kind of agreement that both sides can agree to that would lead to at least a temporary reopening of the government

    Again, the last time Pence tried this, the President rejected the deal he brokered. In fact, do we have an example of the President accepting any deal on a signature issue brokered by anyone but himself?

    The wall is now a signature issue for both sides. Trump won running on it. The Democrats just won running against it. Neither side can shift without getting something from the other side. The real question is whether or not Stephen Miller, Coulter, and Limbaugh will allow Trump to move on DACA.

    The other reality is that the President’s ego and big mouth mean he will continue to take credit for the Shutdown. And to some degree his political instinct here is correct. The talk radio contingent *want* him to own the shutdown as proof that he’s truly the representative of the populist muscular conservatism they’ve been selling for 30 years.

    The problem is that isn’t going to go far beyond the base. And Senate Republicans will fracture on this issue (in part because of 2020). McConnell knows that he’s not going to be able to hold the caucus together on this (Gardner, Collins, and other vulnerable 2020 Republicans are already fracturing).

    The longer this goes on, the more that Trump will lose — especially if he scuttles yet another compromise.

  2. CSK says:

    Well, what choice does Trump have? He either sticks to his guns, or he gets screamed at by Ann Coulter for being a lily-livered weakling.

  3. mattbernius says:

    Also, if the WaPo’s reporting is true, why the hell would anyone want to meet with Pence?

    While assigned by President Trump to oversee the meeting, Pence did not have the president’s blessing to float new or specific numbers, as the vice president had done last month in a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), according to two Trump aides who were not authorized to speak publicly.

  4. gVOR08 says:

    @mattbernius: As someone said, better to have sent an intern.

    Kind of an interesting experiment to see how much humiliation even Mike Pence will put up with.

  5. Kathy says:

    “No one has ever had more imaginary support than me! No ONE!!”

  6. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Interesting insight:

    Trump administration did not understand chaos they would create before president shut it down. ( source )

    Conservative commentator David Frum summed up the article in the Post by tweeting that “Team Trump was so ready to shut down” the government because “they had no idea” what the government does.

    Could it be that he thought “government” was only the folks in D.C. ?

    We all knew that electing someone that had no experience in government would lead to challenges, but … wow.

    Elect a clown, expect a circus.

  7. MarkedMan says:

    @gVOR08: You’re not kidding. They sent staffers to meet with him, the Vice President. And he did. But it was fairly widely known in Indiana that Mike Pence was too dumb to pour piss out of a boot with the instructions printed on the heel. (Credit to LBJ describing someone else).

  8. charon says:

    Trump will not back down, here’s why:
    Trump needs his evangelicals, and they really really like the wall, it meshes with their worldview and concerns.

  9. charon says:



    Why does President Trump continue to keep the government shut down over his demand for a border wall, when large majorities oppose it? The most obvious answer is that he senses his long-term political survival depends on keeping his wall-adoring base behind him as his legal travails mount.

    What is more interesting, though, is that the core of that base support may grow increasingly dependent on the white evangelical Christians who continue fervently supporting Trump no matter what he says and does. And for these voters, it appears, the wall is an extraordinarily potent totem, one whose significance for them calls for better explication as we head into a protracted showdown over it.

  10. Mr. Prosser says:

    @charon: The most obvious answer is that he senses his long-term political survival depends on keeping his wall-adoring base behind him We’ll see how long the base stays strong when funding for the SNAP food assistance program begins to drain away. Much of his base relies on it.

  11. An Interested Party says:

    And to think we’re in this mess because this fool needed a memory trick while he was on the campaign trail…

    As Mr. Trump began exploring a presidential run in 2014, his political advisers landed on the idea of a border wall as a mnemonic device of sorts, a way to make sure their candidate — who hated reading from a script but loved boasting about himself and his talents as a builder — would remember to talk about getting tough on immigration, which was to be a signature issue in his nascent campaign.

    Not all idiots are Trump supporters but most Trump supporters are definitely idiots…

  12. Kathy says:


    Those people are scary stupid.

    Who the hell sees a dilution of power, which at worst would make others equal to them, as an attempt at genocide?