- President Donald Trump on Thursday canceled a congressional delegation’s plans to travel to Afghanistan this weekend, apparently in retaliation for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s suggestion that his State of the Union address be postponed until the partial government shutdown is over.
- Members of Congress had already boarded a bus to depart for the trip.
- Furious lawmakers had to leave the bus, which drove laps around the Capitol grounds attempting to lose the large contingent of cameras and reporters surrounding it.
WASHINGTON – When President Donald Trump canceled a congressional delegation’s plans to travel to Afghanistan on Thursday, he set off a firestorm of angry lawmakers that resulted in a wild-goose chase around the grounds of the United States Capitol.
In apparent retaliation for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s suggestion that the State of the Union be postponed until the partial government shutdown is over or be submitted in writing, Trump nixed the trip to Afghanistan, which included a stop in Brussels for members of Congress to meet with military officials and NATO partners.
The decision infuriated Democrats and Republicans alike.
Congressional delegations are often key for lawmakers to familiarise themselves with issues and situations around the globe, as well as oversee what the US military is doing in certain parts of the world.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, described Trump’s decision as “petty and ridiculous” and said that it “demeans the presidency, as is almost a daily occurrence.”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, typically a close ally of Trump, issued a scathing statement about the move.
“One sophomoric response does not deserve another,” Graham said. “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.”
A staffer inside Graham’s office could be heard shouting in response to Trump’s move, a source told INSIDER.
Graham said that while he was disappointed in how Pelosi was handling the State of the Union situation, he was “glad the Speaker wants to meet our troops and hear from our commanders and allies.”
“I wish our political leadership could find the same desire to work for common goals as those who serve our nation in uniform and other capacities,” Graham said.
A spokesman for Pelosi, Drew Hammill, said the purpose of the trip was “to affirm the United States’ ironclad commitment to the NATO alliance” and “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.”
Wild-goose chase around the Capitol
Early on Thursday, luggage and signs for the congressional delegation were placed by military liaison officers in the Rayburn House Office Building.
Trump’s move came near the end of the day, just as lawmakers were boarding a US Air Force bus preparing to take them to the chartered flights.
Dozens of reporters and TV cameras were staking out the bus, which members of Congress got off to head back into the Capitol. But some stayed on board, prompting the bus driver to drive laps around the US Capitol grounds.
Reporters and cameras followed in pursuit, sprinting after the bus as Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, departed into the garage of a congressional office building.
The House is set to be in session next week amid the partial government shutdown, which is progressing further into record-breaking territory. As for any trip abroad, it appears members of Congress will have to stay in Washington for the time being.