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Inside the White House infrastructure meeting that quickly fell apart

Trump refuses to work with Democrats
Trump refuses to work with Democrats amid ongoing investigations 02:47

The White House — It was supposed to be an hour-long meeting on infrastructure, the rare issue on which President Trump and Democratic leaders had been optimistic about finding common ground. Instead it devolved into a three-minute confrontation in the White House Cabinet Room, sparked by Democrats' investigations of the president and, specifically, comments made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just a short time before.

On Wednesday morning, Pelosi met with members of the House Democratic caucus, many of whom have been increasingly vocal in calling for the opening of an impeachment inquiry. After that meeting, Pelosi said, "We believe no one is above the law. And we believe the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up."

As soon as Pelosi uttered those words, the president and his aides were left incredulous, frustrated and angry, according to White House officials who were granted anonymity to recount the internal reaction to the day's events.

"I don't know what Pelosi was thinking," one senior official told CBS News. "You say there was a cover-up — which is a crime, which is basically accusing the president of being a criminal — and then you come down here saying you want to make a deal?"

After Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer arrived at the White House and congregated in the Cabinet Room for the meeting, Mr. Trump avoided handshakes and hellos, and promptly blew it up.

Over the course of about three minutes, Mr. Trump informed Pelosi and Schumer he had no interest in working with them on infrastructure or trade while Democrats continued to investigate him and his administration. He called Pelosi's earlier comments "terrible" before turning around and exiting the Cabinet Room, leaving the surprised Democrats looking at each other, according to sources in the room.

After the president left, top White House adviser Kellyanne Conway asked Pelosi if she had any response to what the president had just said, according to a White House official.

"I'll respond to the president. Not staff," Pelosi curtly replied.

"Wow, that's really pro-woman of you," Conway countered.

The president then pushed to make a hastily arranged statement in the Rose Garden, and White House staffers worked quickly to get everything in place. A sign on the president's lectern declaring "NO COLLUSION" and "NO OBSTRUCTION" was taped to the podium and barely managed to stay in place, one official said.

"I walked into the room and I told Senator Schumer, and Speaker Pelosi: 'I want to do infrastructure. I want to do it more than you want to do it. I'd be really good at that, that's what I do. But you know what? You can't do it under these circumstances. So get these phony investigations over with,'" Mr. Trump recalled.

Pelosi later told reporters she thought Mr. Trump had been looking for an excuse to avoid cooperation on infrastructure. In a letter to colleagues Wednesday evening, the speaker wrote that Mr. Trump "had a temper tantrum for us all to see."

Asked if the president or White House had planned to blow up the meeting all along, one senior official denied knowledge of any complex strategy, but noted the president continues to get positive feedback from his base when he challenges Democrats on impeachment and congressional investigations.

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