WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday that he was postponing an unannounced trip of hers to Afghanistan and Brussels because of the federal government shutdown, apparent retaliation following Pelosi’s suggestion Wednesday that Trump delay his State of the Union address.
“In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure that you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate,” Trump wrote in a letter to Pelosi, D-Calif., released by the White House.
Pelosi and other lawamkers were planning to leave for Afghanistan on Thursday afternoon, a trip that would include a required stop in Brussels for pilot rest, her spokesman Drew Hammill wrote on Twitter. He said there was no plan to stop in Egypt, contrary to how Trump described the trip in his letter.
In Brussels, the group was to meet with top NATO commanders and military leaders “to affirm the United States’ ironclad commitment to the NATO alliance,” Hammill wrote.
“The purpose of the trip was to express appreciation & thanks to our men & women in uniform for their service & dedication, & to obtain critical national security & intelligence briefings from those on the front lines,” Hammill continued. He noted that Trump himself had traveled to Iraq shortly after the shutdown began.
Trump’s letter came a day after Pelosi wrote to the president, suggesting that he postpone his Jan. 29 State of the Union address if the partial government shutdown doesn’t end this week, citing security concerns because of Secret Service and other personnel who are going unpaid during the shutdown.
Trump has yet to respond to Pelosi’s suggestion on the State of the Union. But his decision to unilaterally cancel a trip Pelosi planned to make along with other lawmakers to visit U.S. troops overseas underscored increasing acrimony between the two most powerful politicians in Washington, just weeks after Democrats took control of the House and Pelosi regained the speakership.
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Trump didn’t explain what authority he has to cancel Pelosi’s trip, but it probably would require the use of military aircraft controlled by his administration. He said Pelosi could fly commercial if she chose. Trump characterized the trip as a “seven-day excursion.”
Pelosi was to have been joined on the trip by other lawmakers, including Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.
The president and congressional Democrats remain at an impasse over his request for $5.7 billion in funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump had pledged that the wall would be paid for by Mexico.
Democrats are refusing to go beyond the current $1.3 billion annual level for border barriers and fences, a stalemate that has shuttered large parts of the government since Dec. 22. The funding lapse, which entered its 27th day Thursday, is the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
“I also feel that, during this period, it would be better if you were in Washington negotiating with me and joining the Strong Border Security movement to end the Shutdown,” Trump wrote in his letter to Pelosi.
“I look forward to seeing you soon and even more forward to watching our open and dangerous Southern Border finally receive attention, funding and security it so desperately deserves,” he added.
Trump’s move drew a rebuke from one of his own allies, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
“One sophomoric response does not deserve another. Speaker Pelosi’s threat to cancel the State of the Union is very irresponsible and blatantly political,” Graham wrote. “President Trump denying Speaker Pelosi military travel to visit our troops in Afghanistan, our allies in Egypt and NATO is also inappropriate.”