Jan. 4 (UPI) -- During what Democrats called an at-times "contentious" meeting with President Donald Trump in the White House on Friday, the president said he was prepared for the government shutdown over border wall funding to last months or years.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said Trump told congressional leaders "he'd keep the government closed for a very long period of time -- months or even years."
During his own news conference in the Rose Garden, Trump confirmed the statement.
"Absolutely I said that. I don't think it will, but I'm prepared," he said.
It was the second such White House meeting between Democratic leaders and Trump this week. Neither ended with an agreement on a spending bill that would end the now 13-day partial government shutdown.
"How do you define progress in a meeting?" Pelosi asked asked in response to a reporter's question. "When you have a better understanding of each other's position? When you eliminate some possibilities? If that's the judgment, we made some progress."
Trump called the meeting productive.
"We had a very, very productive meeting and I think we've come a long way," he said. "We're all on the same path in terms of wanting to get government open."
The impasse stems from more than $5 billion Trump seeks to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Before the end of 2018, both the House and Senate passed a stopgap bill without border wall funding, but the president refused to sign it.
Trump sent a letter to Congress on Friday that summarizes the physical barrier he's asking for along hundreds of miles of the southwestern border.
"As we begin this new Congress, our first task should be to reopen the government and to deliver on our highest duty as elected officials: the security of the Nation and its borders," Trump wrote in the letter. "It is the sovereign right of every nation to establish an immigration program in its national interest -- lawfully admitting those who have followed the rules, while denying entry to those who break the rules or fail to meet the requirements established in law."
During Friday's news conference, Trump said he'd weigh using emergency powers to construct the wall without congressional approval.
"Yes, I have," he said in response to a question about whether he'd consider using the power. "I could do it if I wanted."
"I haven't done it, I may do it. I may do it," he added. "But we can call a national emergency and build it very quickly and it's another way of doing it. But if we can do it through a negotiated process, we're giving that a shot. Is that a threat hanging over the Democrats? I'd never threaten anybody but I am allowed to do it."
In his letter to Congress, Trump said he wants Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to deliver a report "about the depth and severity of the humanitarian crisis and the security crisis that is now unfolding at the Southern Border. However, some of those present did not want to hear the presentation at the time, and so I have instead decided to make the presentation available to all Members of Congress."
The DHS report includes a number of statistics on crime, drugs and human trafficking.
The report says 17,000 adult migrants who had criminal records were arrested at the border last year. It also says 20,000 minors were smuggled into the United States in December alone, and 3,755 known or suspected terrorists were denied U.S. entry in 2017. About 6,000 gang members, including MS-13, were also arrested at the border, it says.
Trump's report also said illegal drug smuggling has increased -- methamphetamine by 38 percent, heroin by 22 percent and fentanyl by 73 percent.
The president said in his letter it's important to listen to the officers working on the "front lines."
"Walls work. That's why rich, powerful and successful people build them around their homes," Trump said. "All Americans deserve the same protection.
"The Southern Border is a very dangerous place -- in fact, Border Patrol agents routinely encounter some of the most dangerous criminals, cartels, and traffickers anywhere in the world."
Trump called on the newly elected 116th Congress to fix "broken promises" on unlawful immigration. He also said facilities that hold migrants are running out of space. Nielsen traveled to the border last week after the deaths of two migrant children in U.S. custody.
"Current funding levels, resources, and authorities are woefully inadequate to meet the scope of the problem," Trump added. "We are no longer in a status quo situation at the Southern Border but in a crisis situation.
"Americans have endured decades of broken promises on illegal immigration. Now is the time for both parties to rise above the partisan discord, to set aside political convenience, and to put the national interest first."