On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked President Donald Trump to postpone his January 29 State of the Union address until after he ends the government shutdown, citing security concerns caused by the fact that neither the U.S. Secret Service or Department of Homeland Security had been funded for nearly a month.
His response? Postponing at the last minute her own planned trip to Afghanistan.
Pelosi’s now widely shared letter, which also suggested Trump consider simply delivering his address in writing instead, marked a stunning rebuke to the President — and served as a reminder of the very real consequences caused by the President’s decision to hold government funding hostage unless Democrats agree to provide him billions of dollars in funding for a border wall that a Republican-controlled house repeatedly refused during the past two years.
Pelosi, unlike Republican politicians who risk alienating their base by opposing Trump, has shown no qualms about standing up to the reality TV star turned populist politician. She has referred to Trump as the “whiner in chief,” accused him of throwing “a temper tantrum” during negotiations, and suggested that his obsession with the border wall is “a manhood thing with him — as if manhood can be associated with him.” Fellow Democrats described Pelosi’s recent letter to the president as a power move, meant to unbalance a man who many criticize as emotionally frail.
“She’s satin and steel. He’s just untethered,” added longtime Pelosi ally Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA).
“She’s just a badass,” added Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), noting that even Trump is hesitant to publicly cross Pelosi out of risk of retaliation. Trump has largely avoided attacking Pelosi since she assumed the role of Speaker. When he tried to do so on Tuesday, asking followers on Twitter why Pelosi was “getting paid when people who are working are not,” Pelosi clapped back immediately.
“Stop holding the paychecks of 800,000 Americans hostage,” she replied. “There is no reason for them to be suffering right now. Re-open the government!”
On Thursday, Pelosi and other members of a congressional delegation were on a bus headed to the airport to depart, when Trump sent the letter that blocked her travel. “We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the Shutdown is over. In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate,” he wrote. “I also feel that, during this period, it would be better if you were in Washington negotiating with me and joining the Strong Border Security movement to end the Shutdown.”
The planned trip by Pelosi to a war zone had not been publicly announced, for security reasons, and would require the use of military planes for such travel — which Trump is now denying her. “Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative,” Trump added in the letter.
“The purpose of the trip was to express appreciation and thanks to our men and women in uniform for their service and dedication, and to obtain critical national security and intelligence briefings from those on the front lines,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill told NPR, pointing out that the president “traveled to Iraq during the Trump Shutdown as did a Republican [congressional delegation] led by” New York Rep. Lee Zeldin.