Trump-Pelosi feud heats up again

President denied the House Speaker a military plane to visit American troops in Afghanistan She imperiled his State of the Union address. He denied her a plane to visit troops abroad. The shutdown battle between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is playing out as a surreal game of constitutional brinkmanship, with both flexing political powers from opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue as the negotiations to end the monthlong partial government shutdown remain stalled. In a dramatic fashion, Mr. Trump issued a letter to Pelosi on Thursday, just before she and other lawmakers were set to depart on the previously undisclosed trip to Afghanistan and Brussels. Mr. Trump belittled the trip as a “public relations event” — even though he had just made a similar warzone stop — and said it would be best if Ms. Pelosi remained in Washington to negotiate to reopen the government. “Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative,” wrote Mr. Trump, who had been smarting since Ms. Pelosi, the day before, called on him to postpone his January 29 State of the Union address due to the shutdown. Ms. Pelosi planned to fly commercially to Afghanistan, but she “delayed the trip on Friday after the administration leaked the plans”. Ms. Pelosi’s aide said she decided to delay the trip due to “grave” security threats that arose from the Trump administration’s disclosure. Tit-for-tat moves Denying military aircraft to a senior lawmaker — let alone the Speaker, who is second in line to the White House, travelling to a combat region — is very rare. Lawmakers were caught off guard. A bus to ferry the legislators to their departure idled outside the Capitol on Thursday afternoon. The political tit-for-tat between Mr. Trump and Ms. Pelosi laid bare how the government-wide crisis has devolved into an intensely pointed clash between two leaders determined to prevail. It took place as hundreds of thousands of federal workers go without pay and Washington’s routine protocols — a President’s speech to Congress, a lawmaker’s official trip — became collateral damage. Ms. Pelosi’s spokesman Drew Hammill said the Speaker planned to travel to Afghanistan and Brussels to thank service members and obtain briefings on national security and intelligence “from those on the front lines”. He noted Mr. Trump had travelled to Iraq during the shutdown, which began on December 22, and said a Republican-led congressional trip also had taken place. Mr. Trump’s move was the latest example of his extraordinary willingness to tether U.S. government resources to his political needs. Some Republicans expressed frustration. Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted, “One sophomoric response does not deserve another.” He called Ms. Pelosi’s State of the Union move “very irresponsible and blatantly political”, but said Mr. Trump’s reaction was “also inappropriate”. While there were few signs of progress on Thursday, Vice-President Mike Pence and senior adviser Jared Kushner dashed to the Capitol for a meeting with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. And the State Department instructed all U.S. diplomats in Washington and elsewhere to return to work next week with pay, saying it had found money for their salaries at least temporarily. For security reasons, Ms. Pelosi would normally make such a trip on a military aircraft. According to a defence official, Ms. Pelosi did request Defense Department support for overseas travel and it was initially approved. The official said the President does have the authority to cancel the use of military aircraft.

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