OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - Hopes for a bipartisan infrastructure bill got tossed out Wednesday, as tension escalated between President Trump and Congressional Democrats after the President walked out of a meeting, saying he cannot reach a deal until Congress stops its investigations following up on Robert Mueller's report on Russian election interference.
The conflict came after a comment earlier from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as she emerged from a meeting of Democrats Wednesday morning. Democrats were meeting to discuss what to do about President Trump ordering staff to disregard congressional subpoenas in the follow up to Mueller's report.
"We believe that no one is above the law including the President of the United States. And we believe that the President of the United States is engaged in a cover up," said Speaker Pelosi.
From there Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer went to the White House to discuss infrastructure. President Trump reportedly stayed only a few minutes, telling Democrats he wouldn't do a deal on infrastructure while they investigated him.
"I walk in to look at people that had just said I was doing a cover up. I don't do cover ups and I told Senator Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, I want to do infrastructure, but you know what, you can't do it under these circumstances. So, get the phony investigations over with," said President Trump at a news conference afterwards in the Rose Garden.
"I am the most transparent president probably in the history of this country," said President Trump who repeated his claim that he is victim of a witch hunt.
Democrats said the president was just making excuses.
"The president asked in his letter last night where would Democrats spend the money on infrastructure. I was prepared to give him a 35-page plan detailing this," said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, waving a stack of paper.
Democrats accused President Trump of creating a distraction, because they say he could not deliver on the $2 trillion dollar infrastructure deal which they had discussed weeks before.
"Now that he was forced to say how he'd actually pay for it, he had to run away. And he came up with this preplanned excuse," said Schumer.
"We had hoped we could give this president an opportunity to have a signature infrastructure initiative to create jobs to improve the quality of life," said Speaker Pelosi.
The blowup comes with heightened tension as the Constitution's balance of power faces daily tests and increasing calls for impeachment proceedings for obstruction.
"It simply cannot be the case that the executive branch gets to decide what witnesses will appear, what documents they'll agree to produce. If we allow that to happen, we will have allowed the executive branch to extinguish congressional oversight," said Rhode Island Democratic Congressman David Cicilline.
"This is the Democrats, so much focus on taking down the president not any type of focus on doing what's best for the country," said Republican Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio who is the Ranking Member of the Committee On Oversight & Reform.
"The biggest shift we're seeing is the blanket refusal of the administration to abide by subpoenas and provide documents," said U.C. Berkeley Political Science Professor Eric Schickler, who has written a book about presidential investigations.
"It's basically a claim that Congress has no business at all doing these investigations," said Schickler, "And that's a kind of assertion of presidential power and demotion of Congress's power that's really different."
Schickler says historically, Congress and the White House have been able to pursue dual tracts of oversight and governing.
"At the height of Watergate, you got major highway legislation passed, you got a major budget reform legislation passed and the War Powers Act," said Schickler, adding that major legislation also was passed during the Clinton administration while under investigation by Republicans in Congress.
A freeze on bipartisan talks with the White House could put other important measure in jeopardy such as increasing the debt ceiling and setting the budget.