Trump: 'Absolutely I Said' the Shutdown Could Last Months or Years

President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House Friday, Jan. 4, 2019, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

During a press conference outside the White House following a “contentious” meeting with congressional leaders negotiating an end to the government shutdown, President Trump admitted that he told Democrats that he would be willing to keep the government shut down for months or even years, in order to fund the wall. The president also said he was very proud to be taking the stand he was taking for the safety of the country and the media is welcome to call it a “Trump shutdown” if they want. “Just words,” he said.

When asked if Senator Schumer was correct when he told reporters earlier that the president had said that “the shutdown could go on for months, or even a year or longer,” Trump replied, “I did! I did. I did say that. Absolutely I said that.”

He added, “I don’t think it will, but I’m prepared and I think I can speak for Republicans in the House and Republicans in the Senate. They feel very strongly about having a safe country, having a border that makes sense. Without borders — I’ve said it many times — we don’t have a country. I hope it doesn’t go on even beyond a few more days. It really could open really quickly.”

The president said that the meeting, while contentious at times, was also very productive.

Without detailing what progress was being made, he said, “We want to save lives. We want children to be safe,” making clear that he was thinking about the children making the dangerous trip to the border with parents or human traffickers, in addition to American children.

“We can’t let them die on the way up,” Trump lamented. “What’s happening to women on those caravans — you’re not talking about it — but it’s horrible what’s happening.”

The president explained that part of the reasoning behind the barrier was to discourage people from making the dangerous trip.

“If they know it’s not going to take place they can’t get through because we have a great border wall or fence or barrier, they’re not going to come up and you’re not going to have the problem,” Trump said. In the meantime, he said, “they can apply to come into our country legally like so many people have done.”

The president pointed out that a certain amount of immigration is good. “We need people. We have to have people because we have all these companies coming in. We need great people, but we want them to come in on a merit basis,” he said.

The president rejected the suggestion that he reopen the government and then continue negotiations with Democrats.

“No, we won’t be opening until it’s solved,” Trump said. “We think this is a much bigger problem. The border is a much more dangerous problem. It’s a much bigger problem. It’s a problem of national security. It’s a problem of terrorists.”

He added, “We’re not going to do it in dribs and drabs.”

Trump dismissed a question about whether he “was still proud to own the shutdown.”

“I’m very proud of doing what I’m doing,” he said. “You can call it whatever you want. You can call it the Schumer, or the Pelosi, or the Trump shutdown. It doesn’t make any difference to me. Just words.”

Trump later said that at one point during the meeting he asked Pelosi, “‘Why don’t you use this [the shutdown] for impeachment,’  and she said, ‘we’re not looking to impeach you,’ and I said, ‘that’s good Nancy, that’s good.'” He added, “but you know what? You don’t impeach people when they’re doing a good job.