President Donald Trump, one of the richest men in America, wants you to believe he can empathize with federal employees who are struggling to make ends meet as the partial government shutdown heads into a third week.
The shutdown, already one of the longest in U.S. history, has left an estimated 800,000 federal workers either furloughed or, if deemed essential, working without pay.
“Mr. President, can you relate to the pain of federal workers who can’t pay their bills?” a reporter asked Trump outside the White House on Sunday.
“I can relate,” the president responded. “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,” he added, without evidence.
Though these workers will likely receive back pay after the government reopens, some are struggling to pay rent or buy groceries. What’s more, government contractors may never see retroactive pay.
“Most of us live paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford to be unpaid and still go to work for long. It is not fair,” a Transportation Security Administration official told HuffPost.
Pay scheduled to go out next Friday will be delayed if an agreement is not reached by midnight on Tuesday, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday.
The president has threatened to continue the standoff for “months or even years” if Democrats don’t agree to include $5 billion for his long-promised U.S.-Mexico border wall in a spending bill to fund government agencies impacted by the shutdown. Democrats have steadfastly rejected Trump’s demand to fund the border wall, which he has vowed Mexico would pay to build since the 2016 campaign.
Trump’s claim that he can “relate” to financially strapped federal workers may be hard to swallow by some. Though he has claimed he didn’t inherit his wealth, a New York Times investigation in October revealed he benefited greatly from his father’s real estate fortune.
“By age 3, he was earning $200,000 a year in today’s dollars from his father’s empire. He was a millionaire by age 8. In his 40s and 50s, he was receiving more than $5 million a year,” the Times wrote.
The president’s net worth is an estimated $3.1 billion, Forbes reported in October.
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