A worker polishes a window with the WEF logo ahead of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. (Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

Trump Pulls U.S. Delegation Out of Davos Forum, Citing Shutdown

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump canceled the U.S. delegation’s trip to the global economic summit in Davos hours after he denied House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a plane to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

“Out of consideration for the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay and to ensure his team can assist as needed, President Trump has canceled his Delegation’s trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday in a statement.

Trump personally made the decision to cancel the Davos trip Thursday afternoon, two White House officials said. The need to focus on domestic issues has also forced U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron to cancel their plans to go.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was to lead the U.S. delegation, which was also to include Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Trump had planned to attend but previously canceled his own travel to the event because of the shutdown. Federal money typically already would have been spent on advance preparations for the cabinet secretaries’ trip.

Trump informed Pelosi earlier Thursday that she couldn’t use a military plane to visit Afghanistan barely an hour before she was to depart, saying she should stay in Washington to negotiate.

Trump Pulls U.S. Delegation Out of Davos Forum, Citing Shutdown

Trump’s abrupt cancellation of the speaker’s trip escalated an increasingly personal clash between the White House and congressional Democrats. Pelosi on Wednesday suggested Trump consider postponing his State of the Union address to Congress until after the shutdown is resolved or deliver it in writing.

Several Democratic members of Congress swiftly criticized Mnuchin for proceeding with plans to go to the Swiss ski resort to meet with the financial elite and heads of state while Trump was preventing the speaker from visiting U.S. troops in a war zone.

Pelosi hadn’t announced her trip, which likely wouldn’t 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.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal summoned Mnuchin on Thursday for a hearing on the economic impact of the shutdown on Jan. 24, when he was scheduled to depart Davos.

The absence of a U.S. delegation at Davos is a sharp contrast to last year when Trump was the first U.S. president to visit the conference in 18 years, and the White House sent a large group of cabinet secretaries and top White House aides. Trump was embraced warmly by CEOs and business leaders at the event after signing into law a major reduction in U.S. corporate income tax rates.

Trump’s cancellation of Pelosi’s trip to Afghanistan 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.”

Trump Pulls U.S. Delegation Out of Davos Forum, Citing Shutdown

“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 in a letter to the speaker.

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,” Pelosi 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.

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.”

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