By Tessa Berenson
January 3, 2019

President Donald Trump made his first appearance in the White House briefing room Thursday afternoon shortly after Democrats formally took over the House of Representatives, reiterating his demand for a border wall as the government nears the two-week mark of a partial shutdown over the issue.

“Without a wall, you cannot have border security,” Trump said, flanked by border patrol agents and members of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Several of Trump’s guests took the podium and made similar arguments. “Walls actually work,” National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd said. “We appreciate President Trump and all of his efforts in getting us those physical barriers.”

The appearance came as Trump and congressional Democrats remain in a stalemate over the partial government shutdown, with Trump demanding $5 billion in funding for border security and Democrats refusing to grant that much for his signature campaign promise.

Art Del Cueto, vice president at the National Border Patrol Council, said he thinks border agents support the shutdown over this issue. “We are all affected by this shutdown,” he said. “We have skin in the game. However, it comes down to border security, and we are extremely grateful to President Trump and we fully support what he is doing to take care of our nation’s borders.”

Trump began the briefing by congratulating Nancy Pelosi, who had just been elected Speaker of the House as Democrats took control of the chamber Thursday, and calling for bipartisanship in the new era of divided government. “Hopefully we’re going to work together and get lots of things done, like infrastructure,” Trump said. “I think it’s actually going to work out. I think it’s going to be a little bit different than a lot of people are thinking.”

Journalists were given five minutes notice to get to the briefing room for the unscheduled event, and the president stayed on the podium for just under 10 minutes, leaving without taking any questions. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders did not answer questions either.

Write to Tessa Berenson at tessa.berenson@time.com.

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