Nancy Pelosi’s office on Friday accused the Trump administration of leaking the House speaker’s plans to fly commercially to Afghanistan to complete her scheduled visit with U.S. troops—and forcing the cancelation of her trip due to security concerns.
“We had the prerogative to travel commercially and we made plans to do that until the Administration leaked we were traveling commercially and that endangers us,” Pelosi told the media on Friday.
“You never give advance notice of going into a battle area,” she added. “You just never do. Perhaps the president’s inexperience, didn’t have him understand that protocol. The people around him, though, should have known that. That’s very dangerous.”
The administration’s alleged leak is the latest in a series of jabs between the speaker and the president. Pelosi (D-CA) drew first blood on Wednesday, when she called on Trump to cancel his State of the Union address until the shutdown has ended.
President Trump responded yesterday by canceling Pelosi’s planned diplomatic trip to Brussels and Afghanistan, writing in a letter to the speaker that “I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan has been postponed. We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the Shutdown is over.”
“Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative,” he added.
Pelosi’s Deputy Chief of Staff Drew Hammill said on Twitter Friday that the speaker had planned to do just that.
“After President Trump revoked the use of military aircraft to travel to Afghanistan, the delegation was prepared to fly commercially to proceed with this vital trip to meet with our commanders and troops on the front lines,” Hammill wrote.
But that plan hit its first snag late Thursday night, Hammill said, when the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service gave Pelosi’s team an updated threat assessment. The assessment said that “the President announcing this sensitive travel had significantly increased danger to the delegation & to troops, security, & other officials supporting trip,” he wrote.
Things got worse Friday morning, Hammill continued. “This morning, we learned that the Administration had leaked the commercial travel plans as well,” he said, announcing that “In light of the grave threats caused by the President’s action, the delegation has decided to postpone the trip so as not to further endanger our troops and security personnel, or the other travelers on the flights.”
An aide to Pelosi told The Daily Beast that they got wind that the administration had leaked the delegations plans to travel to Afghanistan on commercial charter after their office was approached by reporters citing multiple administration officials asking about those plans. Pelosi's office also explained that the State Department has to pay for the flights, even those done commercially, which is how the administration knew of the plans in the first place.
“The fact that they would leak that we were flying commercial is a danger not only to us but to other people flying commercially. It’s very irresponsible on the part of the president,” Pelosi said.
“We’ll go again. We’ll go another time. This would have been my ninth trip,” she added, making a subtle jab at Trump, who has not visited Afghanistan since taking office. “One of my colleagues, it was his fifteenth trip, but we’ve been many times to see what the needs are of our men and women in uniform, honor those needs and thank those troops.”
As The Daily Beast previously reported, Trump’s decision to tank Pelosi’s trip holds serious diplomatic consequences. The speaker intended to stop in Brussels to reassert the United States’ commitment to NATO, which President Trump has criticized vociferously. She also planned to speak with troops in Afghanistan, to assuage concerns about Trump’s controversial decision to withdraw troops from Syria and stave off declining morale.
Trump didn’t seem particularly aware of the consequences of canceling the diplomatic envoy. “Why would Nancy Pelosi leave the Country with other Democrats on a seven day excursion when 800,000 great people are not getting paid,” he tweeted Friday.
When asked by a reporter if she believed that Trump had leaked her commercial flight as continued retaliation for her call to postpone his State of the Union, Pelosi responded with a question of her own.
“I would hope not,” she said. “I don’t think the president would be that petty, do you?”
—With Reporting From Sam Stein