Trump put lawmakers' lives at risk, says Pelosi

US House Speaker accuses President of leaking her team's Afghanistan travel plans

WASHINGTON • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has accused President Donald Trump of putting her and fellow lawmakers in danger by publicising their travel plans to Afghanistan, forcing them to abandon the trip, a breathtaking allegation against the commander-in-chief as their feud escalated and the government shutdown dragged on.

Ms Pelosi said last Friday the State Department had determined that the trip could no longer be made without endangering the safety of lawmakers, as well as troops and support personnel.

The accusation came a day after Mr Trump had denied Ms Pelosi the use of military aircraft, forcing her to make plans to fly by a commercial airline to Afghanistan - before she abandoned that plan, too, accusing the administration of leaking word of it.

"You never give advance notice of going into a battle area - you just never do it," Ms Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol. "Perhaps the President's inexperience didn't have him understand that protocol. The people around him, though, should have known that, because that's very dangerous."

The White House forcefully denied Ms Pelosi's claims.

The bickering between Mr Trump and Ms Pelosi has emerged as a proxy battle in the record-breaking partial government shutdown, which entered its 29th day yesterday, with no signs of any negotiations. The result has been a political clash like few others, as the leaders of two of the nation's three branches of government leverage the powers of their office against one another, all the while trying to shape public sentiment.

The spat left some lawmakers downcast over prospects of finding an end to the partial government shutdown that has forced 800,000 federal workers to go without pay since Dec 22.

 
 
 

"I think it was irresponsible for Nancy Pelosi to cancel the State of the Union, and then I think it was wrong for the President to cancel the plane," said Senator Rob Portman. "I think they're both making it more difficult, not easier, for us to find a resolution to this impasse."

Ms Pelosi wrote Mr Trump a letter earlier last week suggesting he reschedule his Jan 29 State of the Union address over security concerns stemming from the nearly month-long partial government shutdown.

The furloughed workers and those forced to work without pay will soon miss another pay packet unless the shutdown is somehow resolved, a fact that White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said last Friday made it imperative for Ms Pelosi to stay in the country this weekend.

"That's one of the key reasons the President did not want Speaker Pelosi to leave the country, because if she did, it would all but guarantee the fact that negotiations couldn't take place over the weekend," Ms Sanders told reporters.

But Ms Pelosi's spokesman, Mr Drew Hammill, said the White House has not sought to schedule negotiations with the Speaker for this weekend. Mr Trump himself said on Twitter on Friday evening that he would be making an announcement on the border and the shutdown yesterday afternoon.

Representative Elaine Luria, one of the lawmakers who were set to accompany Ms Pelosi on the Afghanistan trip, said in an interview that the delegation spoke at around 6am last Friday and decided to put off the four-day trip.

"I was dressed and ready to go, ready to walk out the door with my suitcase," she said. "The removal of the use of transportation was the first step. The second was the disclosure of travel by commercial air. All protocols for safety, security were broken in the fact that all that information was made public."

Ms Luria, a 20-year US Navy veteran, was the only freshman member invited to join the trip with Ms Pelosi and five other lawmakers.

Ms Luria recalled that during her military service, a senator from her home state of Alabama was part of a delegation visiting the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier.

"It was meaningful to have lawmakers who are involved in the decision-making process come see with their own eyes how the operations were going and hear what the concerns were of the sailors," she said. "It showed that lawmakers don't just sit in Washington."

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 20, 2019, with the headline 'Trump put lawmakers' lives at risk, says Pelosi'. Print Edition | Subscribe