In one of his more head-scratching statements yet, President Donald Trump claimed he "can relate" to federal workers going without their paychecks as a result of the government shutdown.
“I can relate,” the president told a reporter who asked him whether he can "relate to the pain of federal workers who can’t pay their bills." He added: “And I’m sure that the people that are toward the receiving end will make adjustments, they always do. And they’ll make adjustments. People understand exactly what’s going on. Many of those people that won’t be receiving a paycheck, many of those people agree 100 percent with what I’m doing."
The president's statements prompted MSNBC's Joe Scarborough to weigh in––with considerable incredulity.
Donald Trump has no idea what these people are going through. None... They are not getting their paychecks," Scarborough told co-host Mika Brzezinski. "And by the way, I do know what they're going through because my father was unemployed for about a year and a half, and every two weeks was painful, every month was painful. I mean, you didn't know how you were going to get by, how you were going to be able to pay the mortgage, how you were able to fill up the gas tank, how you were able to put food on the table, how you were going to be able to take care of three, young, growing kids."
Donald Trump says they're going to get through? Mica, I wonder what working-class Americans in Pennsylvania, what working-class Americans in Alabama, in Wisconsin, in Minnesota, in all these places where Donald Trump claimed he was one of them and where they thought he was one of them, I wonder what they're thinking today? I wonder what farmers in Illinois, farmers in Illinois, farmers across America are thinking today about a man who says, 'No worries! No paycheck? No worries! You'll take care of it.
No, unfortunately for families like my family back in the early 1970s, sometimes it's extraordinarily hard to make do. Sometimes you can't just 'take care of it,' especially if it's the President of the United States who is taking that paycheck out of your wallet for no good reason.
Others expressed similar sentiments, noting that the president––a man who once said people need identification to buy groceries––is out-of-touch.
The shutdown is the fourth longest in U.S. history, and there is no end in sight, despite assurances from Democrats that they will pass funding bills as soon as they take office. The inauguration of the 116th Congress last week marks the first time ever that a federal shutdown will extend into two different Congresses.
The president's response to the shutdown has been widely criticized. He's claimed since the shutdown, which kicked off last month after he declined to sign a stopgap funding bill because he disagreed with the decision of Congress not to provide the funding he'd requested for his proposed border wall, is a ploy orchestrated by Democrats.
Last month, for example, he claimed, without offering any evidence, that “most of the people not getting paid” during the current government shutdown are Democrats.
That claim was preceded by a previous claim, which he also offered without evidence, that “Many of those workers have said to me and communicated, ‘stay out until you get the funding for the wall.”
“These federal workers want the wall. The only one that doesn’t want the wall are the Democrats,” the president added at the time. "I can’t tell you when the government is going to be open. It’s not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they would like to call it. It’s a disgrace what’s happening in this country. But other than that, I wish everybody a Merry Christmas.”
The border wall––or lack thereof––remains Trump’s signature campaign pledge, but it’s not, contrary to what he may believe, a popular one.
According to last month's NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, 69 percent of Americans believe that the wall should not be a priority for Congress. 74 percent of Democrats say that the wall shouldn’t be a legislative priority at all. By contrast, 63 percent of Republicans described the wall as a “top priority.” 51 percent of independent voters said they don’t believe the wall should be a priority.
“With Democrats and Independents not connected with President Trump’s desire to build a border wall, it’s not surprising that they want him to compromise to avoid a government shutdown,” Lee M. Miringoff, Marist Institute for Public Opinion director, said in a press release. “On this issue, President Trump and the Republicans are on one side of the fence and Democrats and Independents are on the other.”
Among the poll’s other findings:
- 53 percent of Americans approve of the way President Trump’s administration has handled border protection, with 92 percent of Republicans and 26 percent of Americans expressing their support; independents, by contrast, are split (49 percent approve whereas 47 percent disapprove).
- 55 percent disapprove of the way the president is handling “irregular immigration on U.S. soil.”
- 54 percent disapprove of the way the president is handling efforts to reunite families separated by his administration’s “zero tolerance” family separations policy at the U.S.-Mexico border.