U.S.

Trump Caused ‘Grave Threats’ to Pelosi, Troops by ‘Leaking’ Military and Commercial Travel Plans, Says Speaker’s Office

Despite President Donald Trump canceling a prepared trip on Thursday by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and a congressional delegation to visit troops in Afghanistan using military aircraft, the Democratic lawmakers were still “prepared to fly commercially.”

However, the trip is now officially off.

In a fierce attack on Donald Trump, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, said the safety of the trip had been compromised due to “grave threats caused by the President’s action.”

“In the middle of the night, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service provided an updated threat assessment detailing 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," Hammill said in a statement. "This morning, we learned that the Administration had leaked the commercial travel plans as well."

Later clarifying on Twitter, he said "multiple admin sources" were telling reporters that Pelosi and the delegation were flying commercially. Speaking with reporters on the Hill, Pelosi said she was informed of the dangers by the State Department and added it was "very irresponsible on the part of the president" to reveal their trip to begin with. "You never, never give advance notice of going into a battle area," she continued, adding "perhaps the president's inexperience didn't have him understand that protocol."

A White House official told Newsweek the "idea we would leak anything that would put the safety and security of any American at risk is an offensive flat out lie." They added the "world is going to find out" when a group of lawmakers book commerical flights to Afghanistan. Both The Washington Post and The New York Times confirmed in reports that White House officials did, in fact, inform the outlets of Pelosi's travel plans, saying the officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

Due to security concerns, the congressional delegation’s overseas trip to an active war zone was not publicly known. Typically, such information is only disclosed after lawmakers have arrived in the area. In his letter canceling the trip, the president said, “Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative.”

The group of lawmakers was originally scheduled to depart Thursday evening and briefly stop in Brussels to meet with top NATO commanders, U.S. military leaders and "key allies–to affirm the United States’ ironclad commitment to the NATO alliance," according to Hammill. From there, the delegation planned to travel to Afghanistan to meet with troops. 

pelosi, trump, trip, troops, afghanistan Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Drew Hammil, her deputy chief of staff, arrive for a portrait with all of her fellow House Democratic women in front of the U.S. Capitol, on January 4. Pelosi’s trip abroad was called off because, Hammil said, the security had been compromised due to “grave threats caused by the President’s action.” Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A U.S. Air Force bus was already parked outside one of the main House office buildings, with lawmakers ready to depart when Trump broke the news to reporters and on social media. The events of the next few hours were marked by confusion, Politico reported, as reporters chased the bus filled with bewildered lawmakers around Capitol Hill. 

The president's move to cancel the foreign trip was an apparent tit-for-tat with the speaker after she told him to postpone his State of the Union Address amid the ongoing government shutdown. 

On Wednesday, the speaker wrote a letter to Trump requesting he postpone his joint address to Congress scheduled for January 29—or deliver it in writing—until the government is reopened. She cited security concerns caused by "critical departments hamstrung by furloughs," a claim that Department of Defense Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen later refuted. 

"I would hope not," the speaker said when asked if she believed the president's actions were in retalliation for her letter. With sarcasm, she added: "I don't think the president would be that petty, do you?"

In a tweet Friday morning, the president questioned why Pelosi would "leave the Country with other Democrats on a seven day excursion when 800,000 great people are not getting paid."

Update: This story has been updated with additional comments from Drew Hammill and a White House official. It was further updated to include comments from Nancy Pelosi and information from The Post and The Times about leaked information. 

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