President Donald Trump says he 'can relate' to federal workers going without pay

PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he departs for Camp David from the White House, Jan. 6, 2019. PlayJoshua Roberts/Reuters
WATCH The latest on the stalemate between the president and congressional Democrats

President Donald Trump said he "can relate" to the furloughed federal workers who won't be able to pay their bills if the shutdown continues, but added that they will "make adjustments."

Interested in Government Shutdown?

Add Government Shutdown as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Government Shutdown news, video, and analysis from ABC News.
Add Interest

"I can relate," Trump said. "I'm sure the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustments. They always do. People understand 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."

The government shutdown is now in its third week, with roughly 800,000 federal employees working without pay or sent home to wait on potential back pay.

The shutdown has affected a wide range of professions, from members of the Coast Guard, to air traffic controllers.

Ongoing negotiations between Democrats and Republicans to reopen the government have stalled over the president's demands for border wall funding. Jan. 11 is the first scheduled payday that will be missed for federal employees in affected roles since the shutdown began.

PHOTO: A Mexican migrant holds her baby as she is taken into custody by Border Patrol officers after she jumped the border fence to get into the U.S. side in San Diego, Calif., from Tijuana, Mexico, Dec. 29, 2018. Daniel Ochoa de Olza/AP
A Mexican migrant holds her baby as she is taken into custody by Border Patrol officers after she jumped the border fence to get into the U.S. side in San Diego, Calif., from Tijuana, Mexico, Dec. 29, 2018.

When asked by ABC News' Tara Palmeri if federal workers will be getting a check on Friday, the president said “we’ll see what happens.”

While the president will be spending his Sunday at Camp David on a White House retreat, Vice President Pence continued to lead negotiations with a bipartisan group of congressional staffers. He was joined by senior presidential adviser Jared Kushner and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen for the second day of discussions. But before the teams even sat down to talk, the president expressed little confidence in any progress.

"I don't expect to have anything happen at that meeting," Trump said. "But I think we're going to have some very serious talks come Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday."

"Ultimately," Trump said, "it's going to be solved by the principals," meaning the president, House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

"Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and myself can solve this in 20 minutes if they want to. If they don't want to it's going to go on for a long time," Trump said.

Earlier this week, Trump said he would continue the shutdown for “as long as it takes.”

Yesterday, the bipartisan working group did not discuss specific border security numbers, although Democrats had requested the White House to provide a specific budget in writing.

The president said Sunday that he may declare a national emergency "dependent on what's going to happen over the next few days."

As he walked towards Marine One on his way to Camp David Sunday, the president said "I don't like doing this. I have no fun doing this."

He added that the presidents before him didn't "have the guts" to shut down the government over security.

"I was elected to protect our country. That's what I'm doing and presidents before me have all voted for this or many of them and many of the senators that I'm negotiating with right now have voted for this. But let me tell you something, they didn't have the guts to do it."

Democrats have expressed frustration with White House negotiations. Following the staff-level meeting on Saturday, a Democratic source familiar with the discussions said the vice president did not budge on the president's demands for $5.7 billion, and added that the White House has been "all over the place on numbers for months."

Republicans, like Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, are urging lawmakers to come to a resolution.

"Government shutdowns are never good policy," Collins said. "It is not a sign of weakness to try to figure out a middle ground.”

Freshman House Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said the president is holding federal workers "hostage."

"If the GOP wants a wall so badly, they can try to propose and pass a bill like anybody else. Instead, they are seizing gov operations + innocent people’s pay until they get what they want,” she tweeted on Sunday. "This is called hostage-taking. And no one can compromise or negotiate with that."

On CBS “Sunday Morning,” House Speaker Pelosi suggested the president was uncooperative during meetings last week.

"Our purpose in the meeting at the White House was to open up government," Pelosi said. "The impression you get from the president, that he would like to not only close government, build a wall, but also abolish congress, so the only voice that mattered was his own."

Despite the impasse, the president expressed optimism he could work with Democrats when speaking to reporters on Sunday.

"Everybody's playing games but I can say this: I think the Democrats want to make a deal. I really do."