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Trump grounds Democratic speaker's foreign travel

  • Sebastian Smith and Michael Mathes

    Agence France-Presse

Washington, United States   /   Fri, January 18, 2019   /   07:47 am
Trump grounds Democratic speaker's foreign travel US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi following a meeting with US President Donald Trump about the partial government shutdown at the White House in Washington, DC, and US President Donald Trump speaking to the media as he departs the White House in Washington, DC, on January 14, 2019. President Donald Trump clipped the wings of Democratic party leader Nancy Pelosi on January 17, 2019, scrapping her foreign travel plans in a new twist to the government shutdown feud. (AFP/Saul Loeb/Jim Watson)

Deadlock in Washington reached a new low Thursday as Donald Trump hit his chief Democratic opponent Nancy Pelosi with a last-minute cancellation of her plan to take an air force plane to Afghanistan -- citing the four-week-old government shutdown as a motive.

The mess in Washington, where swaths of government workers are not being paid while Congress feuds with the White House, already verged on the surreal. But now it's also getting increasingly personal between the two main antagonists.

In a letter laced with sarcasm and accompanied by his dramatic signature, Trump told House Speaker Pelosi: "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."

"I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is appropriate," he wrote.

Rubbing it in, Trump said that Pelosi could still book her own non-government flights.

"Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative," he wrote.

The trip cancellation followed Pelosi's suggestion that Trump postpone his January 29 State of the Union address to Congress, or do it from the White House instead. Although she cited the shutdown's effect on security, she appeared to want to deny the president one of his chief annual moments in the limelight.

The White House denied that the travel blockage was payback, but few bought the argument.

 

'Sophomoric' 

 

Pelosi's spokesman Drew Hammill said Trump was mischaracterizing the speaker's trip as some kind of jaunt.

He described it as a "weekend," not a week-long trip and said there was no Egypt stop, while Brussels was necessary to allow the pilot some rest.

"The purpose of the trip was to express appreciation & thanks to our men & women in uniform for their service & dedication, & to obtain critical national security & intelligence briefings from those on the front lines," Hammill tweeted.

Lindsey Graham, the Republican leader of the Senate, accused Pelosi of "playing politics with the State of the Union."

But he also hit out at Trump, saying "denying Speaker Pelosi military travel to visit our troops in Afghanistan, our allies in Egypt and NATO is also inappropriate."

"One sophomoric response does not deserve another," he said.

The government shutdown -- affecting some 800,000 federal employees and many more government contractors -- is due to Trump's refusal to sign off on funding for a host of departments.

This is in retaliation for the Democratic-led House's refusal to approve his US-Mexico border wall project.

The shutdown is leaving an increasingly deep impact across the country, where for almost a month FBI agents, museum workers, Coast Guard personnel and other officials have been either not at work or forced to work for nothing. Regular employees will get back pay eventually, while contractors will not.

The Democrats and the White House blame each other for the impasse, with neither side showing any sign of backing down soon.

Critics of Trump quickly pointed out that he made a trip himself to visit troops in Iraq during the shutdown, while a White House delegation is still booked to fly on official travel to the Davos international forum next week.