President Trump made a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room Thursday — his first time at the briefing room podium as president — to air his talking points as the shutdown standoff over his border wall continues, taking no questions from reporters.
Mr. Trump offered little new information in his first public comments since Democrats and Nancy Pelosi took control of the House, making his case for the need for a border wall and inviting border patrol union representatives to the podium to do the same. The president said of the wall he wants to fund, "You can call it a wall, you can call it a barrier, whatever you want," but people want it. "I have never had so much support," he added, saying people have been writing in and tweeting their support.
The president's appearance alone was cause for chaos in the White House press corridors, where reporters were informed by an overhead announcement White House press secretary would hold a briefing in five minutes. Correspondents, reporters, producers, cameramen and photographers scrambled to assemble for the last-minute briefing, with many seats left empty — unusual in an era in which briefings are rare and when they do happen, the room is filled to capacity. When White House press secretary Sarah Sanders finally appeared, later than originally stated, she said she had a surprise guest — and introduced the president himself to the briefing room.
Mr. Trump explained he long had a meeting on the books with the Border Patrol representatives, and decided it would be a great time to come speak to reporters.
"So this meeting was set up a long time ago," the president said. "It just came at a very opportune time ... So, I just appreciate them being here. I said let's go out and see the press you can tell them the importance of the wall. They basically said — and I think I can take the word basically out — without a wall you cannot have border security. Without a very strong form of barrier — call it what you will. You cannot have border security. It won't work."
But while the president emphasized the importance of building a wall, or at least some type of physical barrier, he offered no hint as to how he plans to accomplish that. He wants $5.6 billion for the border wall, but Democrats are only willing to offer $1.3 billion for border security, and Pelosi says she wants no funding for the border wall. Mr. Trump hasn't voiced a figure he would accept for the wall that's lower than $5.6 billion, although he shot down the $2.5 billion proposal floated by Vice President Mike Pence.
A senior White House official told CBS News Thursday the exact dollar figure the White House will accept is in the hands of White House negotiators — the president, Pence, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, senior White House aide Jared Kushner and White House legislative aide Shahira Knight.
The White House has formally invited congressional leaders to the White House to continue shutdown negotiations Friday.