WASHINGTON (JTA) — In an extraordinarily tense exchange Tuesday with Democratic leaders, President Donald Trump threatened to shut down the government unless his proposed wall between the United States and Mexico is funded, and invoked an Israeli wall to defend his position.
“I am proud to shut down the government over border security,” Trump said in the White House Oval Office meeting with Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the speaker-designate, and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader, according to a pool report. “If you really want to find out how effective a wall is, just ask Israel.”
It’s not clear which wall Trump is referring to; Israel credits a wall and fence running through the West Bank with stopping terrorist attacks from Palestinian areas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cited another wall, along Israel’s southern border with Egypt, as a model for the United States in its bid to stop migrants from crossing without approval. The Israel-Egypt wall is a fraction of the size of Trump’s proposed wall with Mexico.
Democrats won the U.S. House of Representatives in last month’s elections, and this was the first meeting since then between the Democratic leaders and the president. The acrimony and raised voices were unusual for such a meeting. Pelosi told Trump repeatedly that he did not have the votes in either chamber to get approval for funding of his proposed wall. She said she would call a government shutdown a “Trump shutdown.”
“Elections have consequences, Mr. President,” said Schumer. “We shouldn’t shut down the government over a dispute, and you want to shut it down.”
Trump says a wall would keep criminals and terrorists among others from entering. Democrats and immigrant advocacy groups say Trump has massively exaggerated the risk posed by migrants.