Trump, in Interview, Calls Wall Talks ‘Waste of Time’ and Dismisses Investigations
A defiant President Trump declared on Thursday that he has all but given up on negotiating with Congress over his border wall and will build it on his own even as he dismissed any suggestions of wrongdoing in the investigations that have ensnared his associates.
In an interview in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump called the talks “a waste of time” and indicated he will most likely take action on his own when they officially end in two weeks. At the same time, he expressed optimism about reaching a trade deal with China and denied being at odds with his intelligence chiefs.
“I think Nancy Pelosi is hurting our country very badly by doing what she’s doing and, ultimately, I think I’ve set the table very nicely,” Mr. Trump said. He made no mention of closing the government again, a move that backfired on him, but instead suggested he plans to declare a national emergency to build the wall. “I’ve set the table,” he said. “I’ve set the stage for doing what I’m going to do.”
“There’s not going to be any wall money in the legislation,”
Addressing a wide range of subjects, Mr. Trump brushed off the investigations that have consumed so much of his presidency, saying that his lawyers have been reassured by the departing deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, that the president himself was not a target. “He told the attorneys that I’m not a subject, I’m not a target,” Mr. Trump said. But even if that is the case, it remains unknown whether the matter would be referred to the House for possible impeachment hearings.
House Democrats on Thursday provided a detailed offer that would provide no funds for border barriers, though it shows the party is willing to provide billions in new money for technology and personnel. A bipartisan conference committee on border security held its first meeting Wednesday in an effort to negotiate a deal, and staff talks are continuing.
There already are vehicle barricades known as Normandy fencing along the border, and “if the president wants to call that a wall, he can call it a wall,” said Pelosi of California. “Is there a place where enhanced Normandy fencing would work?” she said, adding that members of the bipartisan conference committee should “have that discussion.”
The Democrats’ offer includes $98 million for 1,000 new customs officers, $675 million for more imaging technology at land ports of entry, $400 million for other border technology procurement and $502 million for humanitarian aid for migrants.
The next meeting of the main negotiators is expected early next week. Pelosi said the committee needs to complete an agreement by Feb. 8 to get it through Congress by Feb. 15.