US President Donald Trump on Thursday postponed a congressional delegation trip planned by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
The move came after Pelosi warned she may postpone Trump’s State of the Union address due to the ongoing government shutdown.
In a letter to Pelosi quoted by The Hill, Trump told her that a congressional delegation trip she intended to take to Brussels, Egypt and Afghanistan, which he dismissed as a “public relations event,” is now “postponed.”
“We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the shutdown is over,” Trump wrote. “I also feel that, 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.”
The announcement means that Trump will refuse to provide military transportation for lawmakers to make the journey, which would have included a stop in a war zone, according to the White House.
Trump added, however, if Pelosi wanted to go ahead by flying commercial, “that would certainly be your prerogative.”
On Wednesday, Pelosi proposed that the State of the Union be moved back from its scheduled date on January 29, citing security concerns related to the record-long shutdown.
The White House had remained unusually silent in the 24 hours after the Speaker sent her letter and officials had said they were in no rush to respond.
“If she had gone on this trip, she would have guaranteed that 800,000 federal workers would not receive their second paycheck because she would not have been here to negotiate any kind of deal,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an email explaining the decision.
Pelosi’s office said the trip, which was not previously announced, would have included meetings with top NATO commanders in Brussels “to affirm the United States’ ironclad commitment” to the alliance as well as a visit with troops serving in Afghanistan.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) blasted Trump over the announcement.
“It demeans the presidency. It demeans the office, because it's so petty,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill.
Trump’s decision also drew criticism from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who called it “inappropriate” to deny Pelosi military travel “to visit our troops in Afghanistan, our allies in Egypt and NATO.”
“One sophomoric response does not deserve another,” said Graham, who at the same time likewise called Pelosi’s threat to move the State of the Union “very irresponsible and blatantly political.”
The government shutdown is due to the disagreements between Trump and the Democrats over the funding for the wall Trump wished to build on the border with Mexico.
Last week, Trump gave an address to the nation from the Oval Office, in which he explained his reasoning for demanding a wall along the border with Mexico.
He explained that the US could no longer accommodate immigrants who enter the country illegally and warned of “a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border”.
The wall, said Trump, would cost $5.7 billion and “at the request of Democrats, it will be a steel barrier and not a concrete wall.” The President insisted “the border wall would very quickly pay for itself.”
He noted that the government shutdown continues because Democrats “will not fund border security.”
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) later responded to Trump’s remarks, with Pelosi dismissing Trump’s claims and saying that “much of what we have heard from President Trump throughout this senseless shutdown has been full of misinformation and even malice.”
“President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis, and must re-open the government,” she added.
Schumer said that the only reason for his address is that “the President of the United States – having failed to get Mexico to pay for his ineffective, unnecessary border wall, and unable to convince the Congress or the American people to foot the bill – has shut down the government.”
“Our suggestion is a simple one: Mr. President: re-open the government and we can work to resolve our differences over border security. But end this shutdown now,” he added.