President Donald Trump canceled a planned overseas trip by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the government shutdown grows increasingly personal between the negotiators.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted Trump’s letter to Pelosi Thursday, in which he writes, “I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt and Afghanistan has been postponed. ... it would be better if you were in Washington negotiating with me and joining the Strong Border Security movement to end the Shutdown.”
Pelosi had been scheduled to go on a congressional delegation trip, and because members of Congress would travel via military aircraft, Trump, as commander in chief, has the power to nix their transportation.
Typically, war zone visits by lawmakers are done under the shadow of secrecy and not revealed until the last minute for safety reasons. This is especially true for Pelosi since, as speaker, she is second in line for the presidency. Trump’s letter effectively ended the possibility of the trip, even if members had wanted to fly commercially.
Drew Hammill, a Pelosi spokesperson, said in a statement, “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. The President traveled to Iraq during the Trump Shutdown as did a Republican CODEL led by Rep. Zeldin.”
Additionally, while Trump's letter said that Pelosi was also headed for Egypt, Hammill said that was not true.
"The Congressional Delegation to Afghanistan included a required stop in Brussels for pilot rest. In Brussels, the delegation was scheduled to meet with top NATO commanders, U.S. military leaders and key allies — to affirm the United States’ ironclad commitment to the NATO alliance,” said Hammill. “This weekend visit to Afghanistan did not include a stop in Egypt.”
Sanders told reporters at the White House all CODELs were canceled until further notice. Sanders later announced that the White House would not send a delegation to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland as had previously been planned.
Trump’s letter comes one day after Pelosi sent a letter calling on him to delay his State of the Union address planned for later this month. Pelosi argued that there has never been such an address delivered during a shutdown and Trump should hold off until it is over.
Pelosi’s letter was a public admonishment, but she did not go so far as to refuse to allow the State of the Union to proceed.
A White House official denied to reporters that Trump's letter to Pelosi was a response to the speaker's decision on the State of the Union address. On the timing of Trump's letter, the official said Trump "took immediate action" "as soon as he found out about the trip." Pelosi and the Department of Defense were notified before Sanders made the letter public.
Sanders also said the administration wanted to keep Pelosi in Washington to negotiate a deal to end the partial government shutdown and get funding for a wall along the southern border.
Meanwhile there have been no recent meetings between Trump, Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is refusing to take up any bills without a deal. Trump continues to demand $5.7 billion for a southern border wall, and the Democratic leaders continue to refuse. The two sides have dug in and there is no end in sight for the 27-day shutdown, which is already the longest in history. About 800,000 federal workers are going without pay.