AP Bungles Fact Check: ‘It Takes Two To Tango,’ But This Is Trump’s Shutdown

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 11 : President Donald J. Trump debates with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., left, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., right, as Vice President Mike Pence listens during a meeting in the Oval Office of White House on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
The Washington Post/The Washington Post

The Associated Press earned a virtual tongue-lashing Tuesday night after declaring that the ongoing partial government shutdown — spurred by President Donald Trump’s demand for border wall money — was equally the fault of the President and congressional Democrats.

“It takes two to tango,” read a tweet from the AP’s Politics account late Tuesday.

But on this shutdown, Trump is dancing alone.

In reality, the partial government shutdown has been deemed “the Trump shutdown” for a reason. Trump said multiple times before initiating it that he would be proud to shut down the government, and that he would take the blame for doing so.

“I will shut down the government, absolutely,” Trump told Democratic leaders during a televised White House meeting on Dec. 11. “I am proud to shut down the government for border security.”

“I will take the mantle,” he added. “I will be the one to shut it down, I’m not going to blame you for it.”

Later the same day, Trump repeated the sentiment, lest there be any confusion for future fact-checkers: “If we close down the country, I will take it, because we’re closing it down for border security, and I think I win that every single time.”

And so he did. Despite Congress being under unified Republican control for two years, Trump never got a deal for his wall money. And despite both chambers of that Republican-controlled Congress being prepared to pass a government funding package without wall money last month, Trump demanded billions in wall funds anyway, after saying clearly that he knew the consequences of doing so.

So when the government shut down as a result of Trump’s demand, there was only one person to blame: the one man who said he would proudly and knowingly shut down the government.

On Wednesday Dec. 19, shortly before Trump began the shutdown, the Senate voted to keep the government open by passing a temporary funding package, effective through Feb. 8. Senate Republican leadership openly said they expected the President to sign it and keep the government open.

“He will sign a clean [continuing resolution],” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) predicted, incorrectly.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who introduced the funding package in the first place, was similarly resigned to what seemed like an obvious reality: The President would sign a funding bill without wall money. “I’m sorry that my Democratic colleagues couldn’t put the partisanship aside,” he said.

Even White House officials seemed to think the fight was over. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said that Wednesday: “A short-term CR, a CR that goes through Feb. 8, keeps the government up and running, but that doesn’t mean the President is backing down from an essential promise.”

After passing the Senate, the package was set to receive approval in the House of Representatives, and then arrive on the President’s desk. Here’s where Trump stepped in and kept his promise to shut down the government, by announcing that he would not be signing anything without wall money.

Trump broke the news to then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) in an Oval Office meeting on the morning of Dec. 20. Speaking to reporters after meeting with the President, Ryan seemed taken by surprise.

The President informed us that he will not sign the bill that came from the Senate last evening,” the Speaker said, standing in front of the White House.

Without saying so, Ryan expressed an obvious truth: Without Trump’s signature, the government would be shutting down. And without Trump’s signature, it did.

On Wednesday morning, the AP stood by their reporting:

Later Wednesday, the AP said it “could have done a better job of the dynamics that have led to the shutdown.”

This post has been updated. 

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