Trump cancels WEF trip, denies Pelosi use of military plane

January 18, 2019 08:37
US President Donald Trump 0canceled his delegation’s trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, next week due to the partial US government shutdown. Photo: Reuters

US President Donald Trump has canceled his delegation’s trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, next week due to the partial US government shutdown, Reuters reports, citing a statement released by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

Trump's decision came shortly after he denied House Speaker Nancy Pelosi use of military aircraft for an overseas trip in apparent retaliation for her suggestion that he delay the annual State of the Union address.

The rising tension between Trump and the Democrats suggested that the shutdown, on its 27th day on Thursday, remains far from being resolved.

In the meantime, the Trump administration continued to try to mitigate the shutdown’s impact. The State Department said it would call its furloughed employees back to work next week for national security reasons.

Pelosi had been scheduled to travel on a military aircraft as part of a congressional delegation to Belgium, where NATO is based, and Afghanistan to visit American troops stationed there.

Trump, who attended last year’s Davos event, had planned to go again this year but pulled out last week as he grapples with Democrats in Congress over funding for a wall on the border with Mexico that has led to a partial shutdown of the government.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were expected to lead the US delegation in Trump’s place, two senior administration officials said this week. 

“Out of consideration for the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay and to ensure his team can assist as needed, President Trump has canceled his delegation’s trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland,” Sanders’s statement said on Thursday.

Mnuchin and Pompeo had planned to speak jointly to the opening session of the forum on Jan. 22. They were also expected to jointly host a dinner of the Group of Seven foreign and finance ministers to discuss national security and economic issues.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer also planned to be part of the delegation. 

Pelosi trip an 'excursion' 

In a letter to Pelosi denying her delegation the use of a plane, the Republican president called the trip an “excursion” but the Democrat’s spokesman said the trip to the Afghanistan war zone was for security and intelligence briefings.  

“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,” Trump wrote.  

He told Pelosi she could make the trip by flying commercial.

Trump’s intervention stopped the trip just as Pelosi and other lawmakers were about to travel. 

Sanders said that in forcing Pelosi not to travel on a US government jet, Trump had acted within his authority as commander in chief.  

“He postponed her ability to use military air, which must be approved” by the Department of Defense, Sanders said.  

A spokesman for Pelosi, Drew Hammill, said the trip to Brussels was intended “to affirm the United States’ ironclad commitment to the NATO alliance”.

The Afghanistan leg of the trip would have obtained “critical national security and intelligence briefings from those on the front lines”, Hammill said.

A US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Pelosi had requested and been granted Defense Department support for overseas travel, although the president has the authority to cancel Pelosi’s travel.

State of the Union address

The cancellation appeared to be a response to a letter Pelosi sent to Trump on Tuesday, suggesting he delay the annual State of the Union address to Congress, scheduled for Jan. 29, to some point after the government reopens. 

Pelosi cited concerns over the capacity of the Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service to safeguard the Capitol during the event. The agency later said it was capable of securing the venue.

Trump’s action drew criticism from one of his Republican allies in the Senate. “One sophomoric response does not deserve another,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham wrote on Twitter. 

He criticized Pelosi’s move on the State of the Union as “blatantly political” but said, “President Trump denying Speaker Pelosi military travel to visit our troops in Afghanistan, our allies in Egypt and NATO is also inappropriate”.

About a quarter of federal agencies have been shuttered since Dec. 22, with Democratic lawmakers refusing to accede to Trump’s demands to pay for a wall along the US border with Mexico.

Trump is holding out for US$5.7 billion for a border wall. Democrats, who took over the US House of Representatives this month, have rejected his demands, saying there are cheaper, more effective ways of enhancing border security.

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