Inside Trump's deal with the Democrats

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump sat in the Oval Office on Wednesay, listening to his Treasury Secretary argue against a Democratic proposal to raise the government’s debt limit for just three months.

Steven Mnuchin, seated on a couch to the president’s right, had pushed this point before: A longer-term extension of 18 months would extend the deadline past the midterms — which would take partisan politics out of the debate, in his view.

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., disagreed: He wanted something much shorter.

The president, in deal-making mode, had heard enough.

As Mnuchin made his case, Trump cut in: He would side with Schumer, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats to make a 90-day deal to lift the debt ceiling.

9 PHOTOS
Donald and Melania Trump visit Texas, Louisiana
See Gallery
Donald and Melania Trump visit Texas, Louisiana
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive in Ellington Field in Houston on September 2, 2017. The Trumps arrived in Houston on Saturday to meet victims of the epic floods which devastated large parts of the fourth largest US city. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump wave from Air Force One after arriving at Ellington Field to meet with flood survivors and volunteers who assisted in relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, in Houston, Texas, U.S., September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 2: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump walks with first lady Melania Trump prior to their Marine One departure from the White House September 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. The President and first lady are traveling to Texas to visit individuals impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk on South Lawn of the White House in Washington before their departure to view storm damage in Texas, U.S., September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 2: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump walks with first lady Melania Trump prior to their Marine One departure from the White House September 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. The President and first lady are traveling to Texas to visit individuals impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 2: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump walks with first lady Melania Trump prior to their Marine One departure from the White House September 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. The President and first lady are traveling to Texas to visit individuals impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump board Air Force One on September 2, 2017, at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. The Trumps are traveling to Texas and Lousiana to assess conditions in the storm-ravaged states. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump board Air Force One on September 2, 2017, at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. The Trumps are traveling to Texas and Lousiana to assess conditions in the storm-ravaged states. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Five sources who received accounts of the exchange confirmed it to NBC News, with one person describing Mnuchin as seeming initially "wounded" and "surprised" by the president’s action.

Still, Mnuchin traveled to North Dakota with the president later in the day, and on the way back told reporters on Air Force One: "I could not be happier that we had bipartisan support today" to extend the debt ceiling. Another person inside the administration echoed that Mnuchin was ultimately "very supportive” of his boss' decision to make a spending deal with Democrats.

Back in the Oval Office hours earlier, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., jumped in: If there were to be a short-term deal on the debt ceiling, then he wanted to add a provision to keep the government open for the next three months, too.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., blindsided and growing angry, sat across from McConnell. Both listened as the president summoned his daughter: He wanted Ivanka Trump to share details about the child care tax credit that had become one of her signature issues on the campaign trail. One top congressional aide said Ivanka's entrance derailed the conversation, although a White House source described it as a "quick and productive" discussion.

As the meeting wound down, even the president’s own advisers were stunned by the new deal.

"We did not know this was going to happen," one administration source said. "I don’t think anyone did."

25 PHOTOS
Harvey victims return home
See Gallery
Harvey victims return home
Erlind Trigo and her niece Miriam weep as they look at family photographs which they salvaged from their home in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
A man disposes of drywall while salvaging through belongings from his family home in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
George Diaz disposes of furniture while salvaging through belongings from his family home in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Mariah Castillo watches her mother Roxanne Castillo kiss her mother Dolores Hedger, 68, while salvaging through their family home in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Chairs are seen drying outside of a pentecostal church where local residents prepare for Sunday service after tropical storm Harvey in east Houston, Texas, U.S., September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Bible and hymn books that were damaged by tropical storm Harvey are seen outside a Baptist church in Dickinson, Texas, U.S., September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
A volunteer helps clean up the damage from a Lutheran church in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey in Dickinson, Texas, U.S., September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
A volunteer helps clean up the damage from a Lutheran church in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey in Dickinson, Texas, U.S., September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
A home insurance inspector conducts an assessment of damages on the roof of a house after tropical storm Harvey in Houston, Texas, U.S., September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Melissa Ramirez (C) struggles against the current flowing down a flooded street helped by Edward Ramirez (L) and Cody Collinsworth as she tried to return to her home for the first time since Harvey floodwaters arrived in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Nancy McBride collects items from her flooded kitchen as she returned to her home for the first time since Harvey floodwaters arrived in Houston, Texas September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Nancy McBride's half eaten supper still sits on the table since she evacuated in haste before Harvey floodwaters arrived in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Nancy McBride's cat looks out from an air hole punched in a tub after the cat was found in her garage when McBride came home for the first time since Harvey floodwaters arrived in Houston, Texas September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Patrice Laporte measures how much of the Harvey floodwaters have gone down at his house in Houston, Texas September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
The high water mark is visible on a house surrounded Harvey floodwaters in Houston, Texas September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
A girl carries toys she collected from a trash pile of Hurricane Harvey flood damage in southwestern Houston, Texas, U.S. September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
People sort through belongings found in Hurricane Harvey flood damage in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
A volunteer from Texas A&M University helps to clean up flood damage in the house of an alumnus in southwestern Houston, Texas September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Shirts are see drying outside of a trailer house damaged by tropical storm Harvey in East Houston, Texas, U.S. September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
People sort through belongings found in Hurricane Harvey flood damage in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Rogelio Salina takes as break as he helps a neighbor to clean a house damaged by Tropical Storm Harvey in East Houston, Texas, U.S. September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
A man tears out Hurricane Harvey flood damage from a home in southwestern Houston, Texas, U.S. September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Vince Ware moves his sofas onto the sidewalk from his house which was left flooded from Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 3, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Daniel Vasquez removes a damaged carpet after Tropical Storm Harvey flooded his home in east Houston, Texas, U.S. September 3, 2017. Vasquez and his family, originally from El Salvador, spent six days at the shelter after being airlifted by rescue helicopter. Vasquez, a truck driver who supports a family of five, did not hold flood insurance. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

It’s a sequence of events that handed enormous leverage to Democrats as lawmakers brace for a serious showdown in December.

It’s also being perceived by some close to Trump as a deliberate swipe at GOP leadership from a president still festering over the failure of the GOP-led health care reform effort. But White House aides insisted Trump is simply pushing to accelerate action on critical issues like the hurricane relief funding attached to the short-term debt limit bill.

"Donald Trump is a consummate dealmaker,” said Kellyanne Conway, in an interview with NBC News' Kristen Welker. "What that means for people in Washington who have been living and working in this swamp for too long is that they’re just not used to the Trump pace of getting things done."

Top legislative affairs aide Marc Short, talking with reporters on Air Force One, framed the deal as a way to "clear the decks" for tax reform more quickly.

Shortly after the Oval Office meeting wrapped up, Trump departed the White House for North Dakota. Republican leaders returned to Capitol Hill tight lipped — Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., dodging cameras, face drawn. Just over an hour earlier, Ryan had accused Democrats of playing politics with America's credit. "Disgraceful," he had said.

But up on Air Force One after the meeting, Trump was triumphant. He didn't mention Ryan or McConnell.

“We had a very good meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer," the Republican president said. 

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.