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Trump refuses to work with Democrats amid simmering impeachment debate

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not call for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump on Wednesday, as some members of her party are increasingly urging. But her firm message for the president was met with a vow by Trump not to work with Democrats on infrastructure or anything else until investigations into him have ceased. Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff for more.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The speaker uses the words cover-up. The president walks out.

    A political drama played out in Washington today, as President Trump demanded that congressional Democrats give up on investigations and any consideration of any impeachment inquiry.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn't call for impeachment proceedings today, as she left a closed door meeting with House Democrats. But she had a firm message.

    Rep. Nancy Pelosi, (D)-Calif.: We believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Hours later, in the Rose Garden, President Trump reacted

  • Donald Trump:

    I don't do cover-ups.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    He accused Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of, in effect, bad faith before what was supposed to be a White House meeting about infrastructure, and added he won't work with Democrats on that issue, or anything else, until investigations into him ceased.

  • Donald Trump:

    I want to do infrastructure. But you know what? You can't do it under these circumstances. So, get these phony investigations over with.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Back at the Capitol, Pelosi and Schumer responded.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi:

    He just took a pass. And it just makes me wonder why, why he did that. In any event, I pray for the president of the United States.

    Sen. Chuck Schumer, (D)-N.Y.: We were interested in doing infrastructure. It's clear the president isn't. He is looking for every excuse.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    On impeachment, House Democrats are split. Some, like California's Maxine Waters, who's part of the leadership, favor it.

    Rep. Maxine Waters, (D)-Calif.: I'm for impeachment. I have always been for impeachment. I have never backed up. I have never changed my mind. I think he should be impeached.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But others, like House Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings of Maryland, are less eager.

    Rep. Elijah Cummings, (D)-Md.: Let's stay the course. Let's continue to look to the courts to provide the remedies with regard to getting us the information that we need to do our jobs.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Trump administration is pushing back on multiple investigations, including requests by Congress for the president's tax returns.

    The Washington Post reported yesterday that a confidential Internal Revenue Service memo says tax returns must be given to Congress unless executive privilege is invoked. Before the House Financial Services Committee today, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the memo doesn't contradict the Treasury's reason for withholding the returns.

    He argues the release request doesn't have a legislative purpose.

  • Steven Mnuchin:

    That memo, I understand, is addressing a different issue and is not addressing the issue that we and the Department of Justice looked at.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In New York, meanwhile, state lawmakers passed a bill that would give Congress access to the president's state tax returns if the IRS doesn't release them in full.

    And there was one area of cooperation between Congress and the executive branch. The House Intelligence Committee says it reached a deal with the Justice Department to turn over some underlying intelligence documents from the Mueller report.

    Still later, a federal judge in New York moved swiftly in a ruling to uphold Congress' power to subpoena financial records from banks doing business with the president.

    And our congressional correspondent, Lisa Desjardins, joins me now,

    Lisa, you have been reporting on this all day. What do we know about what happened at that meeting at the White House?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The best readout we have gotten so far is from Democrats who were there.

    And what Democrats say happened is, the president walked in. He spoke to them for exactly three minutes, and he told them that he wants to do infrastructure. He also wants a deal on trade and some other items, but that given Speaker Pelosi's comments today, which he called terrible, accusing him of a cover-up, and the Democratic investigations, he says it's not possible, and he cannot work with them.

    He walked out before they could sit down, and that was the end of the meeting.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, we are now — we're reporting on this, Democratic leaders saying they're not prepared to begin an impeachment inquiry, but they do have some kind of plan. So what are you hearing?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That was the news from before the meeting with the president.

    Here's what happened after Democrats met this morning. Speaker Pelosi said, this is what they are doing now. Democrats seem to generally be on board this idea for now.

    So here's what's happening. There are five House Democratic committees that are investigating the president in various areas. Some include the Mueller report. Others include his financial dealings. They are planning — they will be having hearings, subpoenas being issued.

    And if those subpoenas are not complied with, as we're seeing so far they have not been, Democrats are counting on court action. Now, they are considering what's called inherent contempt of Congress. That is a power that Congress has on its own to arrest someone even or issue fines for those who do not cooperate with their investigations.

    It has not been used since 1935. Speaker Pelosi told members today that it is on the table. The message here, Judy, is, have faith in the process that we have begun, even as some members would like to go farther now. Pelosi was able to bring down the temperature in the room. And this court action today especially helps her argument for this longer process.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So that's what the leaders are saying. How are Republicans, Democrats down the line responding to all this?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    These two stories are highly connected.

    Of course, the president saying that the investigations are the reasons that he will not cooperate with Democrats. Democrats say that they think this exposes a weak point on the part of the president.

    They also believe, Democrats, that this was a setup, that the president wasn't able to deal on infrastructure because the truth is, it is a difficult issue for Republicans to pay for a $2 trillion infrastructure deal.

    Democrats believe the president went into that meeting looking for an excuse to get out of the infrastructure deal he had agreed to tentatively before.

    Republicans, on the other hand say it's Nancy Pelosi who is goading the president when she said that he's involved in a cover-up, a crime, very strong words. Some Republicans, though, Judy are having a difficult time with this.

    I spoke to John Cornyn of Texas, a senator, who said: I understand why the president feels as he does, but we do have a duty to do our jobs. And he's hopeful that the president actually engages on at least some topics soon. That remains to be seen.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, speaking of that, the president is saying, I'm not going to talk to you about anything, I'm not going to negotiate on anything as long as you are investigating me, thinking about impeachment.

    So what real-world effect do they think this is going to have right now?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I think this is the most important question. There are many issues really kind of ready for action in Congress right now and needing action.

    Let's look at a few, first of all, hurricane, fire, and flood relief, much of that from last year, billions of dollars waiting for action. There had hoped to be a deal this week. It looks like that may be slipping away.

    They are also approaching budget cuts later this year. And there was a potential deal this week also getting toward a deal. And that seems to, also, be slipping away.

    There also is a lot of talk about doing something on health care and prescription drug costs on a bipartisan way. But if the president is not engaging on these topics, it creates a problem for everyone. Some important reporting from our Yamiche Alcindor.

    White House aides told her that the president will engage on some things, like, for example, keeping government open. But I think we need to see day by day how the president handles this, how he deals with Democrats. Today, he didn't want to deal with them at all.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So interesting and fast-moving.

    Lisa Desjardins, thank you.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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