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President Donald Trump on Wednesday stormed out of a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer over an ongoing partial government shutdown, calling it "a total waste of time."
The breakdown in already fraught negotiations over border wall funding, which have kept nine federal agencies shut down for 19 days and counting, appeared to heighten the possibility that Trump might declare a national emergency.
"I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO," Trump explained in a tweet as Pelosi and Schumer described the walk-out to reporters.
"I said bye-bye, nothing else works!" Trump added.
Schumer, speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, said, "again, we saw a temper tantrum." Trump's behavior was "unbecoming of a presidency," Schumer added.
Speaking shortly after Schumer, Vice President Mike Pence disputed the Democrat's characterization, stressing that the president handed out unspecified sweets to the negotiators.
"Well, the president walked into the room and passed out candy. It's true," Pence said. "I don't recall him ever raising his voice or slamming his hand."
Schumer accused Trump of "using people as leverage" during the meeting, a congressional aide familiar with the meeting told NBC News. "Why won't you open the government and stop hurting people?"
"Because then you won't give me what I want," Trump replied, according to the aide.
Trump's reference to "30 days" in the tweet relates to the House Democratic-passed legislation to fund eight departments through Sept. 30 and reopen the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8. Democrats say the extra time would allow hundreds of thousands of federal workers to get paid while lawmakers break an impasse over the proposed wall.
During a meeting with Senate Republicans earlier Wednesday, a few senators such as Lisa Murkowski of Alaska urged Trump to fund the departments other than DHS to alleviate the effects of the partial shutdown. "The Republicans are totally unified," Trump said after the meeting.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reinforced Trump's claim, saying "we're all behind the president." Senate Republicans' support for Trump's border wall funding increases the likelihood of a long shutdown, as Democrats have unequivocally said they will not approve the money.
Trump is demanding $5.7 billion toward funding a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border. He previously said parts of the government could stay closed for "months or even years" if he does not see his demands met.
When asked Wednesday how long the departments would stay closed amid the impasse, he answered: "Whatever it takes."
In recent days, Trump has floated the possibility that he could circumvent the deadlocked negotiations by declarig a national emergency as a means to divert funds toward a border wall.
"We might work a deal and if we don't I may go that route," Trump said in the Oval Office Wednesday.
The president also said that the "threshold" to take that action is failure to strike a border security deal with lawmakers.
About 800,000 federal workers will start missing paychecks Friday without a deal to reopen the nine departments. Employees such as Transportation Security Administration screeners and border security agents have worked without the guarantee of pay since the shutdown started.
Trump has repeatedly claimed many federal workers support the shutdown over the border wall — even though many government employees have worried about their ability to make ends meet.
"So many of those people are saying, 'It's so hard for me, it's very hard for my family, but Mr. President, you're doing the right thing,'" he said Wednesday.
Some had expected Trump to invoke his emergency powers during his first-ever prime-time Oval Office address Tuesday night, in which the president described graphic details of murders allegedly committed by illegal immigrants and repeatedly referred to the border situation as a "crisis."
The president has said since Friday that he is considering an emergency declaration, a power that even some of his fellow Republicans have discouraged him from using unless as a last resort.