Trump cancels trip to Davos amid standoff over shutdown
President Donald Trump announced on Twitter on Thursday he will not be attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, citing his standoff with Democrats over border wall funding.
Earlier, senior administration officials said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was likely to lead the U.S. delegation to the forum even if the government remained closed when the three-day conference starts Jan. 22.
However, they said Mnuchin will likely lead a smaller-than-expected group to Switzerland if a large chunk of the government remains closed.
Trump had told reporters earlier Thursday he planned to go to Davos but would stay home if the shutdown continued. The loose contingency plans emerged as Trump and congressional Republicans battle Democrats over funding for the president’s proposed southern border wall. Trump has refused to sign bills to fund about a quarter of the federal government that do not include money to pay for the barrier.
“The shutdown determines everything” about who will go to Davos, a senior administration official told CNBC. The official declined to give more details.
Media representatives for the White House and Treasury declined to comment.
The elite annual conference brings together top-tier business executives and world leaders. This year’s theme is “Globalization 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” As in years past, some business allies of Trump will be at the event, including Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman, according to a company spokesman.
Opponents of the president will be attending, as well. A spokesman for liberal billionaire and staunch Trump critic George Soros says he will be at Davos this year.
Trump has positioned himself as an opponent of globalism, although he attended the forum last year to make his “America First” pitch on the world stage.
White House officials who had been planning to attend the forum but are involved with the ongoing deliberations over the shutdown and the wall include Trump son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.
Before Trump announced his cancellation, a person close to Nielsen told CNBC that if the president did not go to Davos, she also would not attend. “She will follow the president’s lead,” this person said.
A spokesman for Nielsen did not return a request for comment.
Trump has asked for over $5 billion in funding for the border wall in exchange for government funding. Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, have refused to budge. In December, the GOP-controlled Senate unanimously approved a bill to keep the government running through Feb. 8, without money for a border wall.
The president, in turn, is threatening to declare a national emergency in order to divert funding for improving border security and building the wall.
“If we don’t make a deal, I would say it would be very surprising to me that I wouldn’t declare a national emergency,” Trump told reporters Thursday.