President Trump on Thursday notified House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he was postponing her previously undisclosed trip to Europe and the Middle East, ostensibly because of the partial government shutdown. The move appeared to be in retaliation for a letter Pelosi sent to Trump on Wednesday asking him to reschedule the State of the Union address, scheduled for Jan. 29, until after the government has reopened (or to deliver his address in writing), citing the number of currently furloughed workers who would be involved in the planning and security work.
Trump’s letter read, “Due to the Shutdown, I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan has been postponed. We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the Shutdown is over. 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.”
“Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial,” he added, “that would certainly be your prerogative.”
It’s unlikely Pelosi would take a commercial flight in lieu of the military transport that had been arranged. According to Politico, Pelosi’s trip to Afghanistan had been kept secret because of security concerns, and she was set to leave on her trip later Thursday. While in Afghanistan, she was to meet with members of the military, as Trump did when he went to Iraq during the shutdown last month.
In a statement responding to Trump’s announcement, Pelosi’s office denied that she planned to travel to Egypt. A spokesman explained, “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.”
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,” according to the statement.
Trump has not otherwise responded to Pelosi’s letter, and according to Politico, the administration believes the government could still conduct a State of the Union address during a shutdown. But it remains unclear if Pelosi would simply cancel the event herself, as it is her role as speaker to invite, or disinvite, the president to give the address. Earlier in the day, Pelosi said she requested the SOTU postponement because she and other Democrats did not want security officials to work the event without pay.
In response to Trump’s statement, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called the decision to postpone Pelosi’s trip “a petty move and unworthy of the president of the United States.” Sen. Lindsey Graham took the opportunity to criticize Pelosi without supporting Trump’s response: “One sophomoric response does not deserve another,” he tweeted. “Speaker Pelosi’s threat to cancel the State of the Union is very irresponsible and blatantly political.”
Other government trips will, it appears, continue as planned. A White House official told NBC News that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin will lead a delegation to Davos, Switzerland, next week for the World Economic Forum, as was planned. [Update, 6:27 p.m.: The White House has now canceled that trip.]
The shutdown, the longest in U.S. history, is now on its 27th day, with no indication of ending soon.