By Lucía Leal
President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened to shut down the US government due to lack of funding if the budget that Congress must approve this month does not include an amount he considers sufficient to build a wall along the border with Mexico.
Trump issued his ultimatum during a heated argument in the Oval Office with Democratic leaders from the House of Representatives and Senate, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, respectively.
"If we don't get what we want, one way or the other, whether it's through you, through military, through anything you want to call, I will shut down the government," said Trump.
"I am proud to shut down the government for border security ... I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down," the president said, addressing Schumer specifically.
The Senate minority leader replied, "We disagree," saying at another point during the meeting: "We do not want to shut down the government."
Congress must approve new funding for the federal government before Dec. 21 and Trump has demanded that $5 billion be included in the budget to build his much-touted wall along the Mexican border.
Schumer and Pelosi went to the meeting with Trump on Tuesday bearing an offer to approve $1.3 billion for increased border security, but they expressed their rejection of the wall project.
"If it's not good border security, I won't take it," Trump replied, adding that "you can't have border security without the wall."
Pelosi responded "That is not true" and called for an "evidence-based" assessment of what works to keep out illegal migrants at the border.
Schumer said that building a wall will cost a lot of money and does not solve the problem of border security or preventing migrants from illegally crossing into the US.
Trump insisted, however, that building the wall is necessary because a "national emergency" exists caused by undocumented migrants and drug traffickers who are entering this country.
He also claimed, without citing any evidence, that people with significant medical problems - in many cases with contagious diseases - are also entering the US illegally.
Nevertheless, the president said that many of the Central American immigrants who had traveled northwards through Mexico to the US border in caravans are leaving the border zone and returning to their countries, adding that the new Mexican government is working very well with his administration.
Upon leaving the meeting, Schumer confirmed to reporters that they had not reached an agreement with Trump and he said he found it difficult to believe that the president would want to paralyze the activities of his own administration.
Schumer also said that if Trump does not revise his stance of demanding $5 billion for the wall, he will get no border barrier at all but will bring on a government shutdown due to lack of funding.