Congressman Accuses Trump of Holding American Taxpayers 'Hostage' Over Border Wall

Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York mocked President Donald Trump on Wednesday, pointing out that the author of The Art of the Deal has "failed" to negotiate an agreement with lawmakers to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico, while also repeatedly calling the ongoing government shutdown "reckless."

Appearing on CNN's New Day, Jeffries accused Trump of holding American taxpayers "hostage" with his government shutdown, comparing the billions of dollars Trump has demanded to construct the wall to a "ransom note."

"What we're unwilling to do is to pay a $5 billion ransom note for a medieval border wall that Trump wants to put forward that he initially said…that Mexico would pay for," Jeffries, who becomes the chairman of the House Democratic caucus this week, said. "Mexico has not paid for it. The great deal maker has failed," he pointed out.

A girl who arrived in Mexico with other Central American migrants hoping to reach the United States cries after her mother crossed the U.S.-Mexico border fence from Tijuana, Mexico, to the U.S. on December 30. Representative Hakeem Jeffries Jaccused Trump of holding American taxpayers “hostage” with his government shutdown, comparing the billions of dollars Trump has demanded to a “ransom note.” GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/Getty Images

Attacking the partial shutdown instituted by the president's refusal to sign any spending bill that did not include billions for a a border wall, the congressman said the move was "totally unreasonable," saying that the White House was holding the "the American taxpayer hostage and want[s] to extract through a ransom note billions of dollars in additional funding." The Democrats, who will control the House of Representatives after the new members are sworn in on Thursday, were willing, he explained, to "provide additional funding [for border security], but there was no justification for the amount that is being requested."

Jeffries said that experts have repeatedly said that the president's border wall would be ineffective, whereas "enhanced technology" such as cell phone towers, satellites, drones, increased communication capabilities and improved fencing would be a better solution than a concrete wall. He said Democrats plan to put a bill on the floor Thursday that would provide $1.3 billion for these enhanced border security measures.

Trump declined to sign a bipartisan budget before Christmas that would have kept the government running through February 8 because it did not provide funding for his long-promised border wall. Despite Republican control of the House and Senate since he took office, the proposal has so far failed to gain enough support to move forward. With Republicans officially losing control of the House, the president will be forced to work with Democratic leaders in Congress to make a budget and end the shutdown.

President Donald Trump speaks at a military briefing during an unannounced trip to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq on December 26 SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

The president invited congressional leaders to meet on Wednesday afternoon to discuss a way forward, Politico reported, as hundreds of thousands of federal employees either continue working without pay or have been temporarily furloughed because of the shutdown. Jeffries said on CNN that he hoped the meeting would be the start of a "mature conversation" about immigration.

Trump tweeted on Thursday morning to again insist that Mexico was already going to pay for the wall through the new United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) that replaced NAFTA last year. Experts have explained previously that the president's assessment of the trade deal is inaccurate, as government revenues are not expected to increase enough to fund the proposed multi-billion dollar project. The argument is also inaccurate in that money coming into the U.S through the deal would go to U.S. citizens, not directly to the Treasury.