WASHINGTON — President Trump retaliated on Thursday against Speaker Nancy Pelosi for threatening to cancel his planned State of the Union address, announcing that he, in turn, was postponing an overseas trip she had planned with a congressional delegation that he described as a “public relations event.”
“I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt and Afghanistan has been postponed,” Mr. Trump wrote in a letter addressed to Ms. Pelosi. “We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the shutdown is over.”
[Read the letter here.]
Ms. Pelosi was scheduled to depart Thursday afternoon, joined by Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and other members of Congress.
Military transport is traditionally provided to the House speaker or congressional delegations for foreign trips. But the trips are traditionally kept secret when lawmakers are heading to war zones. The White House has known about the trip since early last week, when it was brought to its attention by the Defense Department, according to White House officials.
Some members of the congressional delegation were seen at the Capitol getting off an Air Force bus, which was going to take them to Joint Base Andrews to depart.
“We’re going to Afghanistan,” said Representative Stephen F. Lynch of Massachusetts, one of the delegation’s members, after getting off the bus. “We should be allowed to do our oversight.”
A spokesman for Ms. Pelosi, Drew Hammill, responded to the president in a series of tweets, referring to the trip as a “weekend visit to Afghanistan” that did not include a stop in Egypt.
“The purpose of the trip was to express appreciation & thanks to our men & women in uniform for their service & dedication,” Mr. Hammill wrote on Twitter. He said that the stop in Brussels was required for “pilot rest” and that the delegation was scheduled to meet there with top NATO commanders and American military leaders.
Mr. Hammill also noted that Mr. Trump had traveled to Iraq during what he referred to as the “Trump Shutdown.”
The president wrote in his letter, tinged with sarcasm, that Ms. Pelosi could still take the trip if she chose to fly commercial.
He wrote: “It would be better if you were in Washington, negotiating with me and joining the Strong Border Security movement to end the shutdown.”
The letter was the first response from the White House, which had stayed uncharacteristically silent after being caught off guard Wednesday by Ms. Pelosi’s threat to reschedule the Jan. 29 State of the Union address in light of the partial government shutdown.
[Ms. Pelosi cited security concerns as her reason for proposing that the president postpone the annual address.]
One of Mr. Trump’s most prominent Republican supporters, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, was critical of both the president and Ms. Pelosi.
“One sophomoric response does not deserve another,” he said in a statement. “Speaker Pelosi’s threat to cancel the State of the Union is very irresponsible and blatantly political. President Trump denying Speaker Pelosi military travel to visit our troops in Afghanistan, our allies in Egypt and NATO is also inappropriate.”