President Trump is unafraid of a possible government shutdown, White House staffers communicated to conservative leaders during a meeting on Wednesday, according to a source in the room.
A White House official who was not in the room disputed that characterization of the conversation in a telephone interview on Thursday, claiming Trump hasn’t spoken about a possible shutdown “with anyone.” But Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s office said that official’s claim isn’t true, and that Ryan and Trump have, in fact, discussed the issue.
According to the source in the room, White House staffers told attendees that Trump doesn’t see much downside to a shutdown and believes congressional Democrats will bear full responsibility if one does occur.
A White House official speaking on background confirmed that the issue of whether the president is unafraid of a shutdown was raised at the meeting, and confirmed that staffers communicated the president’s commitment to funding the border wall — a major point of contention in avoiding a government shutdown — but denied that any answer in the affirmative was given by White House staffers.
The official claimed that Trump has no position on the shutdown, and hasn’t even discussed the issue with his staffers.
“The president has not talked about it with anyone,” the official said, describing Trump as in a “listening mode.”
That would appear to fly in the face of Paul Ryan’s claim that Trump wants to avoid a shutdown.
“We’re not going to have a government shutdown,” Ryan said in an interview with CBS News that aired Thursday. “The president doesn’t want to have a government shutdown.”
Ryan’s press secretary, AshLee Strong, pushed back on the White House official’s claim that Trump hasn’t discussed a possible government shutdown with anyone.
“This report isn’t true,” Strong said of the White House official’s claim. “The president and the speaker have discussed government funding.”
Trump wants next month’s spending bill to include funding for the wall, while Democrats are determined to fight it. Congressional Republicans aren’t keen on a drawn-out fight over the wall, and would rather make a deal with the Democrats to avoid a shutdown, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Other topics broached at the meeting included: Whether or not to turn deactivated border cameras; protecting free speech on college campuses; and reversing the OPM rule that exempts members of Congress from Obamacare.
The White House official confirmed that these topics were broached at the meeting, but said that the White House staffers in attendance mostly sat back and took notes.
Discussion of health care was largely absent from the meeting, with the exception of possibly reversing Congress’ exemption from Obamacare, the source said.
White House conservative liaison Paul Teller organized the meeting, which was attended by representatives from conservative groups including the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Limited Government and Judicial Watch.