US President Donald Trump has publicly lost his composure, engaging in a remarkable row with the top two Democratic lawmakers at a public Oval Office meeting.
Mr Trump’s repeated claims of the importance of securing funding for the construction of a border wall were rebuffed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
The public argument, the likes of which is seldom seen before cameras, saw the President bicker with Democratic leaders, who made it clear that they would hold Mr Trump responsible if the government shuts down later this month.
Mr Trump has called for $US5 billion ($7 billion) to fund a wall along the US-Mexico border, a campaign promise that he has made into a central issue.
The President opened the White House by saying it was a “great honour” to have Mr Schumer and Ms Pelosi present in their first meeting since Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in the mid-term elections.
The cordial exchange quickly devolved into an unedifying argument when the Democratic leaders refused to go along with Mr Trump’s assertions about his achievements and demands for border security funding.
He ended the argument by saying he was willing to make good on his repeated threat to shut down the federal government over the issue.
“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,” Mr Trump said.
“And 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,” he said.
As Ms Pelosi complained the meeting had “spiralled downward,” and Mr Schumer urged the President to “let’s debate in private”, Mr Trump defended the public nature of the spat.
“It’s called transparency,” Mr Trump said.
Trump, Pelosi and Schumer spar in the Oval Office front of cameras over a deal for funding the government pic.twitter.com/5YdBSSn7UF
— Axios (@axios) December 11, 2018
Congress is seeking to finalise spending before some federal government funding expires on December 21.
While Mr Trump’s fellow Republicans control the House and the Senate until next month, Democratic support is needed to pass any spending legislation.
In a series of early morning tweets, Mr Trump praised his administration’s moves to block migrants at the US border with Mexico and said efforts to stop a caravan of migrants seeking to reach the US were a success, vowing that “the Wall will get built”.
“If the Democrats do not give us the votes to secure our Country, the Military will build the remaining sections of the Wall,” he said on Twitter ahead of the meeting.
It was unclear how Mr Trump would try to use the US Department of Defence to build the wall, given that defence and military construction appropriation bills were signed into law for the 2019 fiscal year without any wall funding.