After Vowing to Fix Washington, Trump Is Mired in a Familiar Crisis

President Trump opted not to accept a deal that he and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the top Senate Democrat, had hashed at the White House on Friday.

WASHINGTON — One year to the day after taking office with vows to bring the dysfunction of Washington to heel, President Trump on Saturday found himself thrust into the most perennial of political crises, bitterly casting blame on Democrats for a government shutdown he said they had orchestrated to mar the anniversary.

Mr. Trump had planned to spend the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., celebrating his first year in office at a soiree with friends and supporters. Instead, he remained out of sight in the White House, where he stewed about an impasse he had been unable to prevent, according to people close to him, and held a feverish round of conversations with Republican leaders in search of a resolution.

“This is the One Year Anniversary of my Presidency and the Democrats wanted to give me a nice present,” he wrote on Twitter before dawn, appending the hashtag #DemocratShutdown. By afternoon, the president’s trip — which was to include a lavish $100,000-per-couple party to celebrate his first year in office — had been shelved as aides contemplated with dread the potential practical and political impacts of shuttering the government.

Inside the White House, Mr. Trump, the neophyte president who has styled himself the ultimate dealmaker, remained remarkably disengaged from the complex process of hammering out a politically palatable deal that could provide a way out of the morass.

Senior advisers counseled him to do less, not more, negotiating, arguing that the shutdown was a political problem that Democrats had created for themselves, and had to find their own way to resolve. But Mr. Trump, a highly reactive personality who detests headlines questioning his leadership — like those that dominated cable TV throughout Saturday, during coverage of the shutdown and women’s marches throughout the country denouncing his presidency — felt stymied and wanted somehow to intervene, according to one presidential adviser.

It fell to John F. Kelly, his chief of staff, who is also a newcomer to high-stakes legislative talks, and is still learning to channel Mr. Trump’s fluctuating impulses, to haggle over the details with Republican leaders, who have become accustomed to plunging into tricky negotiations without a clear sense of what the president would accept.

Mr. Trump shuttled between the presidential residence and the Oval Office, where he spent some time in the afternoon. Throughout the day, he monitored television coverage that toggled between the government shutdown and the women’s marches, one of which ended near the White House.

The president spoke with the Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, and Jim Mattis, the defense secretary, to discuss the impact of the shutdown on border security and the military. He spoke by phone with Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, and the House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, to strategize on a path forward.

The immediate cause of the shutdown, which began at 12:01 a.m. Saturday after Senate Democrats blocked consideration of a House-passed stopgap measure, was a dispute over spending. But it was a stalemate over immigration policy, the topic that propelled Mr. Trump’s political rise and has dominated his first 12 months as president, that snarled the negotiations, as the president vacillated over what approach he should take and advisers including Mr. Kelly counseled a harder line.

Eager to strike a deal with Democrats to extend deportation reprieves to a group of undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, Mr. Trump was nonetheless constrained by his own campaign promises to toughen immigration restrictions, and hemmed in by Republican congressional leaders uneasy about lining up behind a mercurial president with a penchant for changing his mind.

As negotiators on Capitol Hill held out hope of a swift agreement that could end the impasse before the weekend was out, the House and the Senate reconvened for a rare Saturday session. The likeliest path to reopening the government is an agreement on a stopgap spending measure that would stretch longer than the few days that Senate Democrats wanted, but shorter than the four weeks that the House approved on Thursday night.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said on Saturday that the president refused to negotiate on immigration issues until there was a deal to reopen the government.

Referring to Democrats’ insistence that a deal to protect the young immigrants be in hand before they agree to a funding measure, Marc Short, the White House legislative director, told reporters at the White House: “There is nothing in this bill Democrats say they object to, yet it’s like a 2-year-old temper tantrum to say, ‘I’m going to take my toys and go home because I’m upset about something else.’”

In his morning Twitter burst, Mr. Trump said Democrats were prioritizing “illegal immigrants” over American citizens and military personnel, and argued that the only solution to end the dysfunction was to defeat the party in this year’s midterm congressional elections.

“Democrats are far more concerned with Illegal Immigrants than they are with our great Military or Safety at our dangerous Southern Border,” the president said on Twitter. “They could have easily made a deal but decided to play Shutdown politics instead. #WeNeedMoreRepublicansIn18 in order to power through mess!”

In fact, it was Mr. Trump who opted not to pursue a potential deal that he and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the top Senate Democrat, had hashed out over lunch at the White House on Friday. The proposal would have kept the government open, funded a border wall and extended legal status to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, while including disaster aid funds and money for a federal children’s health insurance program. Mr. Kelly later called Mr. Schumer to say the agreement lacked sufficient immigration restrictions.

While Mr. Schumer said shortly after the government shut down that “in my heart, I thought we might have a deal tonight,” White House officials argued that he had drastically overstated the progress made during the lunch.

On Saturday, though, Mr. Schumer said that even members of the president’s party had by now recognized that Mr. Trump was ill equipped to strike a political compromise.



What Happens When the Government Shuts Down?

The federal government has shut down. But what does that mean and how does it happen?

“The motion is adopted. Without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid on the table.” Here we are again. Partisan political bickering has led to another government shutdown. But what does that mean? The federal fiscal year starts on Oct. 1, often without new spending laws in place. Instead, the president and Congress strike a short-term deal to buy more time. If they can’t reach a new agreement before the next deadline, much of the federal government shuts down. Since October, there have already been three short-term agreements. When the government shuts down, federal workers are either forced off the job or told to work without pay. Essential services, such as airport security and food inspections, stay in place. The military remains active but may not be paid on time, depending on how long the shutdown drags on. And national parks and monuments will remain open, at least this time. In the event of a shutdown, the I.R.S. will likely be forced to slow implementation of the new tax bill. Funding for Puerto Rico, still rebuilding from Hurricane Maria, also hangs in the balance. The future will remain unclear for DACA recipients. And without an extension, the Children’s Health Insurance Program will run out of money.

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The federal government has shut down. But what does that mean and how does it happen?CreditCredit...Mark Wilson/Getty Images

“What’s even more frustrating than President Trump’s intransigence is the way he seems amenable to these compromises before completely switching positions and backing off,” he said on the Senate floor. “Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O.”

The remark echoed one made by Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, at a hearing this past week, in which he said there were “two Trumps,” one who was open to a bipartisan immigration deal and one who was not.

Mr. Trump’s shifting desires and demands on immigration have complicated the task of resolving the shutdown conflict. He has repeatedly signaled an inclination to strike a deal with Democrats that would codify Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the Obama-era program that gave work permits and deportation reprieves to about 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

But each time he has drifted toward such a bargain — first at a dinner last year with Mr. Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, then at a large meeting in the Cabinet Room this month with lawmakers in both parties, next in phone conversations with Mr. Graham and Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, and again on Friday with Mr. Schumer — he has snapped back to a hard-line position.

Conservative Republican lawmakers and proponents of immigration restrictions in his inner circle at the White House, led by his senior adviser, Stephen Miller, and Mr. Kelly, have often been the ones to intervene, pushing the president to take a harder line.

One senior administration official, who asked for anonymity to discuss private conversations, described an inexperienced president who genuinely wanted to reach a deal with Mr. Schumer when he called the Democratic leader to the White House on Friday. But Mr. Trump had not determined how it would play out or mapped out a strategy with Republican leaders, the official said, or considered how the politics of a shutdown might unravel.

After Mr. Schumer departed, Mr. Trump met at the White House with Representatives Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Raúl Labrador of Idaho, members of the conservative Freedom Caucus who insist that any DACA measure include steeper immigration restrictions than the president has demanded.

Yet Mr. Trump has complained privately about his own advisers’ attempts to stiffen his spine on immigration. In the Cabinet Room meeting this month, the president erupted when an aide distributed a list of conditions that included restrictive interior enforcement measures. “I don’t know what this is,” the president said, according to a person briefed on the exchange, which was first reported by The Washington Post, and said he did not appreciate being blindsided by his own staff.

A Trump adviser painted a different picture, saying that Mr. Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat, had expressed anger at the document, and that Mr. Trump, who often plays to the crowd in front of him, was merely joining in the outrage.

On Saturday, the president was left alternately defiant and angry, self-pitying and frustrated. He argued to aides that he did not deserve the blame he was taking, but without a credible deal on the table, there was little for him to do. Irritated to have missed his big event in Florida, Mr. Trump spent much of his day watching old TV clips of him berating President Barack Obama for a lack of leadership during the 2013 government shutdown, a White House aide said, seeming content to sit back and watch the show.

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