Any remaining hope of bipartisanship faded quickly Wednesday as President Trump cut short a scheduled meeting with top Democrats on infrastructure and made a surprise appearance in the White House Rose Garden to declare legislative efforts on that front — and possibly others — dead in the water until Democratic leaders "get these phony investigations over with."
The president's 12-minute remarks to reporters — reporters who had been hastily gathered to the Rose Garden with no prior warning or indication of what was happening — marked a clear breakdown in talks as the president appeared inflamed by remarks House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made Wednesday morning following a meeting with the Democratic caucus. Earlier that morning, Pelosi told reporters the president engaged in a "cover-up," a claim the president dismissed as absurd.
"We did nothing wrong," he told reporters Wednesday. "They would have loved to say we colluded ... they were out to get us." And he called the Mueller investigation "a takedown attempt at the president of the United States."
The infrastructure meeting with the president and top Democrats lasted only a few minutes, according to a person familiar with the meeting and a White House official. According to the person familiar with what happened, the president walked in, without shaking anyone's hand or sitting down. The president, according to the person familiar, said he wanted to work on infrastructure, a trade agreement, a farm bill and more, but insisted Pelosi said something terrible and accused him of a cover-up. Mr. Trump said there wouldn't be two tracks, according to the person familiar, and told the Democrats that once investigations are over, they can discuss other things. He then left the room before anyone could speak, according to the person familiar.
"I walked into the room and I told Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi, I want to do infrastructure ... you can't do it under these circumstances," the president told reporters in the White House Rose Garden.
As he has said in the past months, Mr. Trump declared that "no collusion, no obstruction" had taken place. The special counsel determined that there was insufficient evidence of conspiracy but could not reach a conclusion on obstruction after the nearly two-year long investigation.
The fault, Mr. Trump said, lies with "the other side."
"The crime was committed on the other side — we'll see how that turns out," the president suggested, knocking Democrats for continuing to carry out investigations of his administration.
"It was a total horrible thing that happened to our country. It hurt us in so many ways," added Mr. Trump.
"It turns out I'm the most — and I think most of you would agree to this — I'm the most transparent president probably in the history of this country," the president remarked. "Instead of walking in happily to a meeting, I walk in to look at people who just said I did coverups, I don't do coverups."
The president didn't stop there, firing off a series of tweets blasting Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and saying that legislation and investigations cannot happen at the same time.
"You can't investigate and legislate simultaneously - it just doesn't work that way. You can't go down two tracks at the same time. Let Chuck, Nancy, Jerry, Adam and all of the rest finish playing their games...." the president tweeted.
Back on Capitol Hill after the impromptu Trump announcement, Pelosi and Schumer said they hoped they could work with the president on bipartisan issues, but that appears impossible.
Schumer suggested the president used congressional investigations as a "pre-planned excuse" to avoid figuring out an infrastructure plan.
"We are interested in doing infrastructure. It's clear the president isn't. He is looking for every excuse," Schumer told reporters.
Pelosi said Democrats wanted to give the president a change for a "signature infrastructure initiative," but "for some reason, maybe it was lack of confidence on his part ... He just took a pass."
"In any event, I pray for the president of the United States," she told reporters.