Sunday 16 June 2019

Trump performs 'jaw-dropping' walkout at Democrats meeting

Pulled plug: US President Donald Trump with Attorney General William Barr at the White House yesterday. Photo: Getty
Pulled plug: US President Donald Trump with Attorney General William Barr at the White House yesterday. Photo: Getty

Ben Riley-Smith

Donald Trump pulled the plug on infrastructure talks with Democrats in spectacular fashion yesterday, storming out of a meeting over their refusal to drop "phoney investigations" into his administration.

In what opponents described as "jaw-dropping" behaviour, the US president reportedly refused to shake hands at the White House talks, instead delivering a five-minute rebuke.

Mr Trump told the gathering of senior Democratic congressmen that he would not negotiate on new legislation, such as an infrastructure spending bill, unless their inquiries into his presidency were dropped.

The US president is said to have then left without waiting for a response, walking into a press conference in the White House's Rose Garden which was unexpectedly called to accentuate his message.

Mr Trump said that Democrats could either "go down the investigation track or you can go down the investment track".

He pinpointed a comment by Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, who earlier in the day had accused Mr Trump of overseeing a "cover-up", as a trigger for his move.

However, Democrats pushed back, with Ms Pelosi accusing Mr Trump of "taking a pass" on infrastructure.

She said: "He really couldn't match the greatness of the challenge that we had."

Chuck Schumer, the most senior Democrat in the Senate, who also attended the meeting, said Mr Trump's actions were not "spontaneous" but "planned", noting that the room's curtains were drawn and that Mr Trump displayed a pre-printed list of facts regarding the Mueller report.

Earlier yesterday, more Democrats called for impeachment proceedings against Mr Trump after his latest defiance of Congress by blocking his former White House lawyer from testifying.

A growing number of rank-and-file House Democrats, incensed by former counsel Don McGahn's empty chair in the Judiciary Committee hearing room on Tuesday, are confronting Ms Pelosi and pushing her and other leaders to act.

Their impatience is running up against the speaker's preference for a more methodical approach, including already unfolding court battles.

Ms Pelosi summoned some of them, still a small fraction of the House Democratic caucus, to a meeting of investigators early yesterday to assess strategy.

Mr Trump has repeated his mantra about Democrats conducting a "witch hunt" against him.

"The Democrats are getting zero work done in Congress," he tweeted.

Some Democrat leaders, while backing Ms Pelosi, signalled that a march to impeachment may become inevitable.

"We are confronting what might be the largest, broadest cover-up in American history," Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters. If a House inquiry "leads to other avenues including impeachment", the Maryland Democrat said, "so be it".

Representatives Joaquin Castro and Diana DeGette added their voices to the impeachment inquiry chorus.

"There is political risk in doing so, but there's a greater risk to our country in doing nothing," Mr Castro said on Twitter. "This is a fight for our democracy."

"The facts laid out in the Mueller report, coupled with this administration's ongoing attempts to stonewall Congress, leave us no other choice," tweeted Ms DeGette.

One Republican congressman, Justin Amash of Michigan, has called for impeachment proceedings.

He said he thinks other lawmakers should join him - but only after reading special counsel Robert Mueller's report carefully.

Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy dismissed Mr Amash as out of step with House Republicans and "out of step with America".

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina - a former Trump critic - said wryly of Mr Amash's position: "I don't think it's going to be a trend-setting move." (© Daily Telegraph London)

Irish Independent

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