- The government shutdown has entered into its third day.
- President Donald Trump has done little publicly, aside from tweeting, during the shutdown.
- According to reports, Trump is staying away from the fray and communicating only with Republican leaders.
As Congress scrambles to break the stalemate over the government shutdown, one person has been uncharacteristically quiet: President Donald Trump.
While the White House has maintained that Trump is involved with negotiations, the president did not make a public appearance over the weekend. The White House released photos it said showed him working in the Oval Office on Saturday, but the extent of his public involvement has consisted of tweeting insults at Democrats for their role in the shutdown.
Some senators have complained. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Saturday that the White House was simply giving him the runaround in negotiations.
“Unfortunately, the president and Republican leaders in Congress are like Abbott and Costello,” Schumer said. “The congressional leaders tell me to negotiate with President Trump. President Trump tells me to figure it out with Republican leaders.”
The minority leader also compared negotiations with Trump to “negotiating with Jell-O,” saying the president had agreed to the broad outline of a deal to address immigration, healthcare, and funding on Friday but then backed down later.
The government entered a partial shutdown Saturday after the Senate was unable to agree on a short-term spending bill the House passed Thursday. Senate Democrats want to either attach immigration legislation to the bill or move up the deadline for a long-term spending bill to encourage separate immigration negotiations.
According to the multiple reports, Trump has held calls with Republican leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, but has stayed out of touch with Democrats. His strategy appears to largely be to let Congress work out the details.
The Washington Post on Sunday reported that Republican leaders in Congress had actually advised Trump to stay away; it cited a senior White House official as saying Trump was “itching” to get involved.
Even some Republicans are complaining about the White House’s role in the negotiations, though they have pinned the blame not on Trump but on the staff around him.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is among a bipartisan group of senators attempting to find a compromise and end the shutdown, pointed the finger at Stephen Miller, a senior policy adviser.
“As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, we are going nowhere,” Graham said.
Graham, who said prior to the shutdown that lawmakers “don’t have a reliable partner at the White House to negotiate with,” also complained that various deals on the table supported by Trump could have solved the immigration issue and prevented the shutdown.
“I’ve talked with the president – his heart is right on this issue,” Graham told reporters. “He’s got a good understanding of what will sell, and every time we have a proposal it is only yanked back by staff members.”
Trump’s schedule for Monday does not include any public events.
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