Sen. Chuck Schumer jabbed President Donald Trump on Saturday in his most sensitive spot — effectively telling the President, you just don’t get the art of the deal.
Thirteen hours into the government shutdown, the Democratic Senate leader made a flagrant attempt to peel Trump away from his Republican colleagues and White House aides, casting rhetorical flies to try to hook the President into a deal his party may not support.
“Negotiating with this White House is like negotiating with jello, it is next to impossible,” Schumer said at a press conference.
“It’s next to impossible to strike a deal with the President, because he can’t stick to the terms,” Schumer said. “I have found this out, Leader McConnell has found this out, Speaker Ryan has found this out.”
Knowing Trump was likely watching on TV and pointedly targeting his self-image as the ultimate tough-guy deal-maker, Schumer appeared beside a large picture of the President with a slogan reading: #Trumpshutdown.
He repeatedly implied that Trump is itching to make a deal to end the impasse, but that he keeps getting talked out of it by tough headlines in conservative media, and aides like Stephen Miller and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
In a calculated show of political grandstanding, Schumer appeared to be banking on a belief that Trump hates the impression that he is being managed by his staff or outside influences.
“When you sit with the President … you can see that he really wants to do it,” he said. “But then a few hours later because of the right wing pressure, he backs off.”
Schumer gave his version of events on Friday when he said he left a White House meeting with Trump confident a deal was close, after he said he exited a Democratic comfort zone and put the idea of a border wall on the table in return for a short days-long funding bill so talks could continue.
But later, he said Trump phoned him and spoke about extending government funding for three weeks, as GOP leaders want.
Then, Schumer said, he was called later with a list of new demands by Kelly, who is emerging as a hardline voice on immigration.
The Democratic leader, a New Yorker who has known Trump for years, was also careful to appeal to Trump’s often obvious desire to be liked.
“I don’t have the personal animus that a lot of my colleagues have towards the President, we are both blunt and direct,” he said, raising the prospect of new negotiations in which Trump could relish taking a dominant role.
“The President needs to step up and lead. America knows this is the Trump shutdown, only the President can end it,” Schumer said. “The President needs to pull up a chair to end this shutdown.”
The calculation that both sides are making in the showdown is that the public will blame the other side. Republicans want to cast Democrats as unreasonably holding out for action to defer deportations of 700,000 people brought to the US as kids in an unrelated effort to pass a government budget.
Democrats believe that as Republicans control the House, the Senate and the White House, they will carry the can.
“Here we are on the first anniversary of his inauguration, we are mired in the Trump shutdown,” Schumer said.