President Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump said the government shutdown isn't "fair" to unpaid workers but it's "so much bigger than any one person"
President Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump had this to say to the approximately 800,000 federal employees who aren’t being paid as the historic government shutdown is in its 33rd day:
“It’s not fair to you and we all get that, but this is so much bigger than any one person,” she told Bold TV on Monday when asked what she’d tell these workers.
“It is a little bit of pain, but it’s going to be for the future of our country, and their children and their grandchildren and generations after them will thank them for their sacrifice,” she said. “Right now, I know it’s hard. I know people have families, they have bills to pay, they have mortgages, they have rents that are due.”
She said that the president is “trying to come up with a good solution here,” referring to his refusal to sign legislation funding federal government operations unless Congress gives him $5.7 billion to build a wall along the southern border with Mexico.
The border wall was his signature 2016 campaign promise — his means of fixing the problem of illegal immigration and one for which he pledged to make Mexico fit the bill. His demand now for $5.7 billion from U.S. taxpayers, needed to end what he calls a “crisis” of drugs and violence, has led to an unprecedented 33-day shutdown of the federal government, leaving workers without pay even as many of them must continue to work.
(Congressional Democrats say Trump’s wall is ineffective and immoral.)
Lara, who is married to the president’s son Eric, told Bold TV that the wall, which the president is now proposing to build amid a larger push for immigration reform, is the greater urgency: “If we do nothing right now, [the immigration system] is never going to get fixed.”
Kristie Scarazzo, a single mom and botanist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has “anxiety through the roof” because she can’t pay February’s rent and other bills. She is outraged by the comments from the president’s daughter-in-law.
“I think it is the most arrogant thing in the universe, this is beyond presumptuous,” Scarazzo tells PEOPLE. “She’s saying that this is more important for generations to come?”
“This is not more important than my daughter, she is the most important thing in my life,” says Scarazzo, who like many Americans lives paycheck to paycheck. “How she can say that? What if we end up homeless or can’t pay for groceries? I’m sure she never had to worry about these things.”
In a previous interview with PEOPLE, Scarazzo said through tears: “I don’t know what I am going to do. I don’t even have my wedding ring to sell.”
Lara’s interview received plenty of blowback on Twitter.
Writer Bradford Pearson wrote “If Lara Trump would like to pay my furloughed wife’s $600/month law school loans, our $2,100/month rent, or our $1,350/month day care bill, my email address is in my bio.”
He followed up with another tweet, explaining: “These are, in fact, just a few of the bills that we’re currently using our savings to pay, savings that had previously been set aside for a down payment on our first house. So I’d say it’s more than “a bit of pain.”
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Lara echoed her father-in-law in dismissing criticism of her comments as distorted “fake news” headlines.
“They’re completely misrepresenting my words and my support for furloughed workers. My heart goes out to all of the federal workers affected by the shutdown,” she wrote on Twitter, adding, “We’re fighting every day to end this impasse!”
Scarazzo and other unpaid federal workers are struggling.
A 31-year-old diabetic federal employee in Wisconsin has rationed her insulin to make it last longer, because she can’t afford more. In Washington, D.C., a contract security guard at the Smithsonian turned to food stamps. Across the country, FBI field offices are opening food banks for agents and staff who can’t afford things to eat.
Earlier this month, the president said the funding stalemate could last for months — “even years.” Democrats urged him to reopen the government while they continue to debate border security.
Polls have largely shown Americans blame Trump and the Republicans for the shutdown.
The majority of Americans — 71 percent — don’t feel a border wall is worth the shutdown (compared to 28 percent who say the wall is worth it), according to a recent CBS poll.