WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California postponed an official trip to Europe and Afghanistan due to security concerns on Friday after President Donald Trump grounded her military flight and divulged the itinerary, and her aides said the administration leaked plans for her and the lawmakers accompanying her to fly commercially.
“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,” Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff and communications director, said in a statement.
Hammill said that the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service had raised its threat assessment for the trip overnight after Trump announced in a letter to Pelosi on Thursday that he was revoking her use of a military aircraft to make the journey, which she was to have begun that afternoon. The update indicated “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,” he said in the statement.
It was the latest turn in a bitter tit-for-tat between Pelosi, who requested on Wednesday that Trump postpone his State of the Union address scheduled for Jan. 29 in light of the continuing partial government shutdown, which she said raised security concerns given that federal employees charged with protecting the attendees were not being paid. The president struck back the next day, saying that with government workers not receiving their paychecks, he was asking her to delay what he branded a “public relations event.”
Trump’s abrupt reprisal, which unfolded even as lawmakers who were to have accompanied Pelosi were in a bus near the Capitol about to head to Andrews Air Force Base for their departure, led to a frenzied round of clandestine contingency planning late Thursday, as the speaker huddled in her office with the lawmakers, aides and security officials to try to salvage the trip by using commercial flights. But given the State Department’s heightened warnings and indications that the plans were leaking out, Pelosi decided early Friday to delay the visit altogether.
Hammill said that Pelosi and the other lawmakers scheduled to take the trip, including Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Rep. Eliot L. Engel, D-N.Y., the chairman of the Foreign Affairs panel, were planning to use to trip to conduct oversight and thank American troops.
“The Congress has a constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight in the war zone where our men and women in uniform are risking their lives every day,” he said.