After Vowing to Fix Washington, Trump Is Mired in a Familiar Crisis
It fell to John F. Kelly, his chief of staff, who is also a newcomer to high-stakes legislative talks, and is still learning to channel Mr. Trump’s fluctuating impulses, to haggle over the details with Republican leaders, who have become accustomed to plunging into tricky negotiations without a clear sense of what the president would accept.
Mr. Trump shuttled between the presidential residence and the Oval Office, where he spent some time in the afternoon. Throughout the day, he monitored television coverage that toggled between the government shutdown and the women’s marches, one of which ended near the White House.
The president spoke with the Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, and Jim Mattis, the defense secretary, to discuss the impact of the shutdown on border security and the military. He met at the White House with Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, and spoke by phone with the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, and the House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, to strategize on a path forward.
The immediate cause of the shutdown, which began at 12:01 a.m. Saturday after Senate Democrats blocked consideration of a House-passed stopgap measure, was a dispute over spending. But it was a stalemate over immigration policy, the topic that propelled Mr. Trump’s political rise and has dominated his first 12 months as president, that snarled the negotiations, as the president vacillated over what approach he should take and advisers including Mr. Kelly counseled a harder line.
Eager to strike a deal with Democrats to extend deportation reprieves to a group of undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, Mr. Trump was nonetheless constrained by his own campaign promises to toughen immigration restrictions, and hemmed in by Republican congressional leaders uneasy about lining up behind a mercurial president with a penchant for changing his mind.
As negotiators on Capitol Hill held out hope of a swift agreement that could end the impasse before the weekend was out, the House and the Senate reconvened for a rare Saturday session. The likeliest path to reopening the government is an agreement on a stopgap spending measure that would stretch longer than the few days that Senate Democrats wanted, but shorter than the four weeks that the House approved on Thursday night.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said on Saturday that the president refused to negotiate on immigration issues until there was a deal to reopen the government.