Democrats’ top leaders said Tuesday that President Trump had abused the office of the presidency in his Oval Office address demanding a border wall, saying his speech was filled with “misinformation and even malice.”
New House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top Senate Democrat Charles E. Schumer sought to shift focus away from the border fight and onto the partial government shutdown that’s now nearing the end of its third week.
“He promised to keep government shut down for months or years, no matter who it hurts,” Mrs. Pelosi said from the Capitol, where she and Mr. Schumer delivered their response to the president’s address.
The two leaders insisted they do not oppose border security, but do oppose the president’s vision for how to achieve it.
And they said whatever the border solutions, the rest of government can be reopened without solving that issue.
“American democracy doesn’t work that way,” Mr. Schumer said. “We don’t govern by temper tantrum. No president should pound the table and demand his way or else the government shuts down.”
Mr. Trump, in his remarks, had anticipated some of Democrats’ complaints.
He pointed out that Mr. Schumer in 2006 voted for 850 miles of double-tier fencing, and six years ago voted for a bill that doubled the Border Patrol and added 350 miles of fencing.
The president also he chided Mrs. Pelosi, who recently called walls “an immorality.”
The president said wealthy politicians live behind walls, and that’s okay — perhaps a reference to his predecessor, President Obama, who Mr. Trump recently said lives in a gated home.
“They don’t build walls because they hate the people on the outside but because they love the people on the inside,” Mr. Trump said.
Democrats said they can support border roads and technology to try to spot illegal crossers, though they did not agree to hiring any more Border Patrol agents or to build more fencing.
Instead, they said they wanted to focus on border crossings, adding more customs officers and technology to detect contraband being smuggled in through the ports of entry,
“This president just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration,” Mr. Schumer said.
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