Donald Trump's relationship with Democratic leaders appears to have deteriorated even further, after the president walked out of a planned meeting with House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Senate counterpart Chuck Schumer.
The intended discussion around infrastructure – one of the few areas where the Trump administration and key figures from the Democratic party had hoped to find some common ground – didn't take place, with Mr Trump reportedly refusing to shake hands with Mrs Pelosi or Mr Schumer.
He then gave an apparently unscheduled press briefing in which he criticised Mrs Pelosi for earlier claims the president was “engaging in a cover-up”.
“I don't do cover-ups”
The latest dispute between the president and Democratic leaders was triggered by comments made by Mrs Pelosi following a meeting with members of the House Democratic caucus, some of whom have been calling for an impeachment inquiry into Mr Trump.
She said: “We believe no-one is above the law. And we believe the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.”
This reportedly led to an incredulous response in the Trump camp, with one senior official telling CBS News they couldn't understand “what Pelosi was thinking”.
After walking out of the planned meeting on infrastructure after just a few minutes, the president gave a press briefing in which he responded to the comments and claimed he is “the most transparent president probably in the history of this country”.
He added: “Instead of walking in happily into a meeting, I walk in to look at people that have just said that I was doing a cover-up. I don't do cover-ups. You people know that probably better than anybody.”
The president gave his statement behind signs saying “no collusion” and “no obstruction”, referring to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Mr Trump is now refusing to work with Democratic leaders on an infrastructure plan until the threat of impeachment is lifted and they stop investigating him.
The Democratic response
The president's comments didn't cause Mrs Pelosi to back down. In fact, she later used an event in Washington as an opportunity to repeat her previous claim.
She said: “The fact is, in plain sight in the public domain, this president is obstructing justice and he's engaged in a cover-up – and that could be an impeachable offence.”
In his account of the events at the White House, Mr Schumer said what happened would “make your jaw drop”. He also accused the president of “running away” and using the claims of a cover up as a “pre-planned excuse” to avoid talking about plans for investment in infrastructure.
“When we got in the room, the curtains were closed, the president – there was a place for him at the front, so he could stand and attempt to tell us why he wouldn't do infrastructure,” said Mr Schumer. “And of course, then he went to the Rose Garden with prepared signs that had been printed up long before our meeting.”
Democrats look set to continue their inquiries into Mr Trump. This week, a New York judge ruled that the president's financial records could be disclosed to Democratic lawmakers by Deutsche Bank and Capital One, while a federal judge said Mr Trump could not block an order for his accounting firm to submit his records to Congress.
An ongoing trend
This is the latest in a series of disputes the Trump administration has been involved in. Perhaps the most high-profile of all is the ongoing trade war between the US and China, which recently came to a head with both countries increasing tariffs on imported goods.
Mr Trump then signed an executive order declaring a national emergency over threats to US IT networks from “foreign adversaries”, in what was viewed as a targeted move against Chinese tech giant Huawei.
These tensions seem to be agitating investors, with US stock futures experiencing a sharp fall on Thursday (May 23rd). There are clearly concerns in the markets that relations between the US and China are unlikely to improve anytime soon.
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