House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was prepared to fly commercially to Afghanistan after President Donald Trump blocked her from using military aircraft, but she has delayed the trip after the administration leaked the plans, her office said.
A Pelosi aide said the top opposition Democrat decided to delay the congressional trip due to “grave” security threats that arose from the Trump administration’s disclosure.
“After President Trump revoked the use of military aircraft to travel to Afghanistan, the delegation was prepared to fly commercially to proceed with this vital trip to meet with our commanders and troops on the front lines,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in a statement.
Pelosi herself told reporters the administration “leaked” information about the trip, a charge the White House denied.
“The idea we would leak anything that would put the safety and security of any American at risk is a flat out lie,” a senior White House official said.
Trump scrapped Pelosi’s use of military aircraft on Thursday at the last minute due to the partial US government shutdown soon to begin its fifth week, in apparent retaliation for Pelosi telling the president to postpone his scheduled January 29 State of the Union address based on security concerns tied to the shutdown.
The tit-for-tat is the latest scrap related to the shutdown, now the longest in US history, with lawmakers and the White House in stalemate over how to resolve the crisis.
Meanwhile, the Office of Management and Budget reportedly issued a memorandum saying that “under no circumstance during a government shutdown” will any congressional delegation be permitted to use government aircraft for travel.
Pelosi, speaking to reporters, said Trump was “irresponsible” for divulging her travel.
“We had a report from Afghanistan that the president outing our trip had made the scene on the ground much more dangerous because it’s just a signal to the bad actors that we’re coming,” she said.
The US State Department released an updated assessment stressing that Trump’s announcement of the Pelosi travel “had significantly increased the danger to the delegation and to the troops”, Hammill added. “This morning, we learned that the Administration had leaked the commercial travel plans as well.”
Democratic lawmakers have expressed outrage at Trump’s actions.
“As a former Member of the Intelligence Committee who has travelled to Iraq and Afghanistan, disclosing ANY Members’ travel into a war zone is disgraceful and dangerous,” tweeted House Democrat Jan Schakowsky. “This is unprecedented.”
Trump lashed out again over the now-postponed trip, taking to Twitter to ask why Pelosi and other Democrats would leave the country “on a seven day excursion when 800,000 great people are not getting paid”, during the government shutdown caused by an impasse between him and lawmakers over funding for his border wall with Mexico.
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