President Donald Trump said Wednesday that a government shutdown "could happen" and blamed Democrats for the looming threat, claiming "they want to have illegal immigrants pouring into the country, bringing with them crime."
"Democrats are really looking at something very dangerous for our country. They are looking at shutting down, they want to have illegal immigrants, in many cases people that we don't want in our country," Trump told reporters at the White House. "We don't want to have that, we want to have a great, beautiful, crime-free country."
It's the latest swipe at Democratic leaders from the president, who needs the party's help to keep the government open and funded past Friday. And it's an exaggeration of what Democrats have said they want: protections for Dreamers, or recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents, who work and live and pay taxes here.
Because the Republican congressional majority needs Democratic votes to pass a bill averting a shutdown, the minority party has viewed the encroaching deadline as a chance to make headway on their priorities, like DACA and the expired Children's Health Insurance Program.
In September, Trump announced a plan to wind down the Obama-era DACA program, which provides Dreamers some legal protections and work authorization, and asked Congress to find a solution.
After Trump's attack Wednesday, Democratic leadership hit back.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California tweeted that Trump "is the only person talking about a government shutdown."
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., were supposed to sit down with the president and Republican leaders last week, but the two cancelled after Trump pre-emptively tweeted that he didn't "see a deal." Another meeting has been scheduled for Thursday.
While House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is pushing for a a two-week funding extension to move the deadline for a broader spending plan to Dec. 22, The Washington Post reported that the president has been privately telling confidants that a government shutdown could be good for him politically, helping him win back supporters with a harder-line immigration stance.
Trump's remarks Wednesday echoed his rhetoric on the campaign trail, when he routinely suggested that immigrants were dangerous to the physical safety of Americans.
"The Democrats maybe will want to shut down the country because they want people flowing into our country, and I want people coming into our country but I want to vet those people," Trump said. "And I want to vet them very carefully, because we don't want to have radical Islamic terrorism in this country, and we don't want to have crime in this country."