Trump hits back at Democratic claims of cover-up

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-48372001

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Media captionTrump to Pelosi: “I don’t do cover ups”

US President Donald Trump has angrily lashed out at Democratic leaders’ claims he is engaged in a “cover-up.”

“I don’t do cover-ups,” the Republican president said in an unscheduled statement from the White House.

His remarks came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met fellow Democrats to discuss impeaching the president.

Mr Trump is fighting congressional inquiries by ignoring subpoenas, withholding documents and blocking testimony by current and ex-advisers.

What did Trump say?

The president spoke minutes after cutting short a planned meeting with the two top Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill.

The trio were due to discuss infrastructure spending, a rare possible area of bipartisan agreement between the White House and its political antagonists.

But Mr Trump abruptly left the discussion with Mrs Pelosi and her Senate counterpart Chuck Schumer after just five minutes.

Mr Trump then appeared in the Rose Garden to make a surprise statement, condemning the “phoney investigations” by Democrats.

The president also charged his political opponents with “abuse” and railed against their invoking of “the big i word”, a reference to impeachment.

According to CBS News, Mr Trump walked into the meeting with Mrs Pelosi and Mr Schumer and did not shake either’s hand or sit down.

An unnamed source familiar with the confrontation said Mr Trump told the House speaker that her comments earlier in the day about a cover-up were “terrible”.

The president told them Democrats needed to end congressional investigations against him before he would discuss anything else, then abruptly left the room.

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (centre) and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (right) speak to the media

How did Democrats respond?

In a news conference immediately following Mr Trump’s, Mrs Pelosi said the president “wasn’t really respectful of the Congress and the White House working together”.

“In any event, I pray for the President of the United States and I pray for the United States of America,” she said.

Mr Schumer added: “We were interested – we are interested in doing infrastructure. It’s clear the president isn’t. He is looking for every excuse.”

The New York senator accused Mr Trump of “running away”.

“When we got in the room, the curtains were closed,” Mr Schumer said.

“There was a place for him at the front so he could stand and attempt to tell us why he wouldn’t do infrastructure, and of course, then he went to the Rose Garden with prepared signs that had been printed long before our meeting.”

Blame game continues

After the Mueller investigation concluded, Donald Trump and his advocates cheered what they saw as a cloud over the White House finally lifting.

It turns out, however, the political weather is still gloomy.

Congressional Democrats have picked up the mantle of the inquiry, issuing a flurry of subpoenas and, on Tuesday, winning the first round of a court battle to gain access to the president’s financial records.

Now Mr Trump, in what was clearly a pre-planned response, is pushing back.

Co-operation and investigation, the president asserts, are mutually exclusive. Hopes of a legislative infrastructure deal have been dashed. Of greater immediate concern, however, are the status of negotiations on approving a new budget and raising the debt ceiling.

If Republicans in Congress follow the president’s lead and dig in their heels, a new round of budget crises could be on the way.

An infrastructure plan appeared to be the best way for the president and Democrats to enact substantive legislation that they could take credit for on the 2020 campaign trail.

If the current course continues, however, the two sides will instead be fighting over who should shoulder the most blame.

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Media captionWhat does it take to impeach a president?

What’s caused this latest row?

Democrats on Capitol Hill have launched inquiries into Mr Trump’s actions and finances stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

That report found no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, but Mr Mueller did list 10 instances of possible obstruction of justice by the president.

Democrats, who control the House, have also been in a legal tussle with the Department of Justice over materials relating to Mr Mueller’s inquiry.

A House committee voted this month that Attorney General William Barr, a Trump appointee, should be held in contempt for refusing to provide an unredacted version of the Mueller report.

On Wednesday, House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff said the department had reached an agreement to turn over some counterintelligence reports from Mr Mueller’s inquiry.

Most recently, Mr Trump angered Democrats in Congress by directing his former aide, Don McGahn, to ignore a congressional subpoena to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.

Democrats were keen to hear from Mr McGahn, who served as White House counsel for nearly two years, as he had told investigators he had felt pressured by the president to fire Mr Mueller.