The shutdown fight has escalated to yet another level of ugliness.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office accused the Trump Administration Friday of endangering the security of members of Congress, as well as U.S. troops in Afghanistan, by leaking details of the Congressional delegation’s plans to travel to the combat zone on commercial flights.
“The fact that they would leak that we were flying commercial is a danger not only to us, but to other people flying commercial,” Pelosi said Friday. “Its very irresponsible on the part of the President.”
The latest development comes after President Donald Trump publicly canceled the Congressional delegation’s use of a military plane Thursday, citing the government shutdown. That was apparently in response to Pelosi’s letter to Trump suggesting he not deliver the State of the Union to at the U.S. Capitol during the shutdown because of the increased security burden on Secret Service personnel who were not being paid during the shutdown.
Pelosi demurred a bit when asked if Trump’s decision was a retaliation. “I would hope not,” she said. “I don’t think the President would be that petty. Do you?”
After Trump informed Pelosi Thursday that he was grounding the military plane scheduled to take lawmakers to Brussels and Afghanistan, the delegation was still planning to take the trip, but by flying commercial, according to Pelosi’s office.
“In the middle of the night, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service provided an updated threat assessment detailing that the President announcing this sensitive travel had significantly increased the danger to the delegation and to the troops, security, and other officials supporting the trip,” Pelosi’s spokesman and Deputy Chief of Staff Drew Hammill said in a statement Friday morning. “In light of the grave threats caused by the President’s action, the delegation has decided to postpone the trip so as not to further endanger our troops and security personnel, or the other travelers on the flights.”
“This morning, we learned that the Administration leaked the commercial travel plans as well,” Hammill added.
On Friday morning, Trump’s Twitter feed indicated the trip might still be happening: “Why would Nancy Pelosi leave the Country with other Democrats on a seven day excursion when 800,000 great people are not getting paid,” he wrote.
The Congressional delegation had planned to visit troops in Afghanistan and NATO officials in Brussels to confirm their commitment to the alliance. Trump has reportedly said he wants to withdraw from NATO.
“We had anticipated important defense and intelligence briefings in Afghanistan. We were looking forward to the opportunity to reassure NATO allies and those shaken by reports that the president has questioned his staff about leaving NATO,” Rep. Adam Schiff, who chairs the Intelligence Committee and was part of the delegation, told reporters Thursday evening.
Lawmakers were on a bus scheduled to take them to the aircraft when the Trump administration circulated a letter to Pelosi – with inaccurate details about the travel plans — telling her he was grounding her flight because of the shutdown. But First Lady Melania Trump reportedly used an Air Force plane to fly Florida a short time later.
Schiff purposely dodged questions about whether the trip was still happening, saying that he could not weigh in on the Speaker’s travel plans.
“There has been far too much said about that already,” Schiff said.
Pelosi said the trip would ultimately be rescheduled. “We’ll go again. We’ll go another time,” she said, noting it would have been her ninth visit to Afghanistan.