Trump Denies Pelosi Plane to Visit U.S. Troops in Shutdown Spat
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump informed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that she couldn’t use military planes to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan this weekend because of the partial government shutdown, telling her barely an hour before her departure that she should stay in Washington to negotiate.
“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,” Trump said in a letter to Pelosi, a day after she suggested he postpone his State of the Union speech scheduled for Jan. 29.
Pelosi had not announced her trip, which likely would not have been made public in advance for her security. She had planned to depart Thursday afternoon, according to a person with knowledge of her itinerary. Trump’s move outraged Democrats, who questioned whether he had the authority to control congressional travel.
“We believe this is completely inappropriate by the president,” said House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, who intended to accompany Pelosi. “As far as we can tell this hasn’t happened in the annals of congressional history.”
Remain in Washington
He called it “irresponsible” for Trump to publicly disclose that she would travel to a war zone.
“All too often in the past two years the president has acted like he’s in the fifth grade,” Schiff added. “To have someone who has that kind of character running the country is an enormous problem in every way.”
Trump said Pelosi should remain in Washington to seek a resolution to the shutdown, the longest in modern U.S. history and now in its 27th day.
“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.
Members of Congress routinely travel overseas using military aircraft, and the person familiar with her itinerary said that was Pelosi’s intention. The White House has canceled all congressional use of military planes, an official said.
“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,” her spokesman Drew Hammill said in a statement. Hammill noted Trump had visited troops in Iraq since the shutdown began, as did a congressional delegation led by Republican Representative Lee Zeldin.
While Trump described the trip as including stops in Brussels and Egypt, Hammill said the Brussels stop was only to allow the pilot to rest and there was no stop planned for Egypt. While in Belgium, the congressional delegation planned “to meet with top NATO commanders, U.S. military leaders and key allies – to affirm the United States’ ironclad commitment to the NATO alliance,” he said.
At the Capitol, several lawmakers were seen boarding and then exiting an Air Force bus. Trump said Pelosi was free to make the trip “by flying commercial.”
Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, criticized both Trump and Pelosi.
“One sophomoric response does not deserve another,” Graham said in a statement. “Speaker Pelosi’s threat to cancel the State of the Union is very irresponsible and blatantly political. President Trump denying Speaker Pelosi military travel to visit our troops in Afghanistan, our allies in Egypt and NATO is also inappropriate.”
About an hour after postponing Pelosi’s trip, Trump’s campaign issued a fundraising appeal titled “I’m disinvited” under his name that attacked the House speaker for suggesting he postpone the State of the Union address.
“It’s clear that Nancy Pelosi would rather ignore our American Constitution than allow me to speak directly to YOU,” Trump said in the email, which asked supporters to make “an emergency contribution of at least $5” by midnight Thursday.
The top House Republican, Kevin McCarthy of California, backed Trump, saying Pelosi should stay in Washington and negotiate with Trump.
“Why would you leave the country when government is shut down?” he asked.
The shutdown hasn’t stopped administration officials from traveling. In addition to Iraq, Trump has traveled to Texas and Louisiana since the dispute began. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plans to lead a U.S. delegation including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, next week.
Mnuchin’s Davos trip is still on, another White House official said. But the House Ways and Means Committee summoned Mnuchin on Thursday for a hearing on the shutdown on Jan. 24, when he is scheduled to depart Davos.
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