President Trump’s State of the Union appeals for Democrats to end “partisan” probes into his White House, as well as his call for cooperation on border security to prevent another partial government shutdown, met with a prickly response Wednesday from the other side of the aisle -- as the push for unity quickly gave way to new rounds of Washington rancor.
“An economic miracle is taking place in the United States -- and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations,” Trump said Tuesday night, referring to investigations into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump’s business dealings.
“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” he went on to say. “It just doesn't work that way! We must be united at home to defeat our adversaries abroad.”
His statement was met by a visible wince from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who later issued a statement saying Trump had “threatened the United States Congress not to exercise its constitutional responsibility of oversight."
Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, rejected the claim the investigations were partisan.
"We are doing what is demanded by the Constitution, that is to be the check and balance on the executive branch," he said on Wednesday. "As a matter of fact, we’re sworn to do that. And we’re going to do that. So again, we’re going to address all the issues that we have to regard to investigations and at the same time making sure we take care of the American people."
While Trump repeatedly pressed for unity in the speech itself, the president faced accusations from Democrats of undermining that message with fiery rhetoric and a continued push for a border wall the party opposes.
“Frankly, it reminded me of Richard Nixon’s last State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress,” Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., told Politico on Tuesday. “It’s the same old same old coming from this White House and this president. So disappointing and inappropriate and, frankly, the worst of Richard Nixon.”
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Trump angered Democrats will fresh calls to fund the wall on the southern border. The government partially shut down at the end of last year because of a stalemate over Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion in funding for the wall. Trump temporarily ended the shutdown last month, but has warned he could declare a national emergency if Democrats don’t play ball. In his address, he renewed his calls for a wall on the border, and for Democrats to lend their support.
“Tonight, I am asking you to defend our very dangerous southern border out of love and devotion to our fellow citizens and to our country,” he said. “No issue better illustrates the divide between America's working class and America's political class than illegal immigration.”
“Simply put, walls work and walls save lives," Trump said. "So let’s work together, compromise and reach a deal that will truly make America safe. ... This is a smart, strategic, see-through steel barrier -- not just a simple concrete wall."
Democrats sat on their hands for those sections of the speech, even going so far as to groan at Trump’s warnings of incoming caravans of migrants from south of the border (although they were shushed by Pelosi).
In a statement, Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair Tom Perez implied the White House has lost its moral authority on illegal immigration.
"Separating families does not unify our nation," Perez said, referring to the Trump administration's strict enforcement of immigration law which resulted in more illegal immigrant parents being detained even though their children could not be similarly incarcerated. "Taking away people’s health care does not unify us. Blocking access to the ballot box does not unify us. Shutting down the government does not unify us. Building walls does not unify us."
Pelosi, meanwhile, accused Trump of “fear-mongering” and called on Trump to back a bipartisan conference committee’s negotiations to prevent a fresh shutdown on Feb. 15.
“Instead of fear-mongering and manufacturing a crisis at the border, President Trump should commit to signing the bipartisan conference committee’s bill to keep government open and provide strong, smart border security solutions,” she said in her statement.
On Wednesday morning, she struck a more optimistic note and told reporters that negotiators, if “left to their own devices, I think they can have an agreement on time by Friday.” She also said she would support whatever bipartisan agreement comes out of that committee.
Asked if Trump had helped or hurt that negotiation with his State of the Union remarks, Pelosi just laughed.
Fox News’ Gregg Re and Guerin Hays contributed to this report.