WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump informed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he was canceling an overseas trip she planned to take aboard a government aircraft this weekend, responding to a letter in which she suggested that they postpone the State of Union address until the shutdown ends.
Pelosi was set to travel to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan, according to Trump’s letter, and reportedly planned to leave on Thursday.
“We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the Shutdown is over,” Trump wrote in his letter. “In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate.”
He said Pelosi could still fly commercial, but “that would certainly be your prerogative.”
The trip also was to include other members of Congress, and an Air Force bus was even parked outside the House side of the Capitol, apparently to take them to the military plane. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and other members of Congress were spotted getting off the bus shortly after Trump’s letter was released.
Schiff told reporters that “as far as we can tell, this has never happened in the annals of congressional history, but at the end of the day, we are determined our oversight will continue no matter what the president’s actions are.” He said that they planned to reassure NATO allies and to make sure service members “have what they need.”
He said that Trump’s decision to make public Pelosi’s planned trip to a war zone was “completely and utter irresponsible.”
Pelosi wrote a letter to Trump on Wednesday in which she suggested that the State of the Union address, set for Jan. 29, be rescheduled until after the shutdown is over. In a press conference earlier on Thursday, she said Jan. 29 was “not a sacred date,” nor was it constitutionally required. But she cited security concerns and the fact that so many security personnel are going without pay.
Trump waited more than 24 hours to respond to her letter.
Pelosi’s overseas trip had not yet been publicly disclosed as a security precaution.
Her spokesman, Drew Hammill, said that the Afghanistan trip included a pilot rest stop in Brussels, where the congressional delegation was to meet “top NATO commanders, U.S. military leaders and key allies – to affirm the United States’ ironclad commitment to the NATO alliance.”
“The purpose of the trip was to express appreciation and thanks to our men and women in uniform for their service and dedication, and to obtain critical national security and intelligence briefings from those on the front lines,” he said. “The President traveled to Iraq during the Trump Shutdown as did a Republican [congressional delegation] led by Rep. Zeldin.”
The trip did not include a stop in Egypt, he said.
The shutdown is now in its 27th day. The House recessed on Thursday afternoon, and won’t return until Tuesday. There is currently no visible sign that the impasse is anywhere near its end.
Trump’s cancellation of Pelosi’s trip was the latest sign that the clash between the White House and congressional Democrats has only grown more caustic. Speaking to reporters, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) called Trump’s action “petty. It’s small. It’s vindictive.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) also was critical of Trump — as well as Pelosi.
“One sophomoric response does not deserve another,” Graham said on Twitter. “Speaker Pelosi’s threat to cancel the State of the Union is very irresponsible and blatantly politics. President Trump denying Speaker Pelosi military travel to visit our troops in Afghanistan, our allies in Egypt and NATO is also inappropriate.
“I am glad the Speaker wants to meet our troops and hear from our commanders and allies. I am very disappointed she’s playing politics with the State of the Union. I wish our political leadership could find the same desire to work for common goals as those who serve our nation in uniform and other capacities.”
Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin is planning to bring a delegation to Davos, Switzerland this month for the World Economic Forum. A number of news outlets reported that the trip was still planned, but Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said later that the trip was canceled.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy supported Trump’s move, “Why would she want to go overseas with the government shutdown, with people missing their paychecks?”