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President Donald Trump on Friday said he told Democrats earlier in the day that he would keep the government partially closed for years, or as long as it takes to get funding for his proposed border wall.
Trump also asserted that he had the authority to declare a national emergency and build the wall without congressional approval.
In comments delivered from the White House Rose Garden, Trump painted a different picture from Democrats about a two-hour meeting that took place between the president and top Democrats.
Trump described the meeting as "very productive" and said he had designated a group to advance talks over the weekend. Democrats described the negotiation as "contentious" and showed little optimism about ending a partial government shutdown.
Bipartisan congressional leaders huddled with Trump as they try to break an impasse over the president's demand for $5 billion to build his proposed border wall.
Trump threatened to keep nine U.S. departments closed "for a very long period of time — months or even years" — until he gets the funding, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. Trump confirmed making the comments.
The president said Friday that he had the authority to build a wall without congressional approval, but said he preferred "a negotiated process."
"Absolutely, we could call a national emergency because of the security of our country," Trump said. "We may call a national emergency and do it very quickly."
The news that the president had considered circumventing Congress was earlier reported by ABC News.
Vice President Mike Pence, also speaking from the Rose Garden, said that Trump had selected him as well as White House senior advisor Jared Kushner and Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to meet with top-level Democratic and GOP lawmakers for talks this weekend.
"We will work earnestly over the weekend, we will work in good faith," Pence said.
Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi both said they urged Republicans to temporarily reopen the government while they seek a solution on border security. On Thursday night, House Democrats passed legislation to fund eight closed departments through Sept. 30, and the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8.
Democrats say that would end the uncertainty for hundreds of thousands of federal workers who face missing paychecks while leaders hash out an immigration agreement. But Trump has threatened to veto any legislation that does not fund his wall. The GOP-controlled Senate has pledged not to take up any proposal the president refuses to sign.
"We cannot resolve this until we open up government, and we made that very clear to the president," Pelosi, who started her second stint as speaker on Thursday, told reporters outside the White House.
Trump has called a barrier necessary to securing U.S. borders — though he has not made it clear exactly what he wants in a structure on the U.S.-Mexico border. Earlier this week, Trump said he would wait "as long as it takes" to see his demands met.
Asked about a comment he made last month, in which he said he would be "proud to shut down the government for border security," Trump said he doesn't call the partial government closure a shutdown.
"I'm very proud of doing what I'm doing. I don't call it a shutdown," Trump said. "I call it doing what you have to do for the benefit and safety of our country."
He told reporters that "you can call it the Schumer, or the Pelosi or the Trump shutdown, doesn't make any difference to me. It's just words."
The partial shutdown entered its 14th day on Friday with no resolution in sight. Both the House and Senate adjourned Friday until Tuesday, meaning the closure will carry into next week unless lawmakers agree to a swift compromise.
As it dragged on Friday, Schumer accused the president of holding federal workers "hostage."