Washington (AFP) – US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday excoriated her political nemesis, President Donald Trump, for “outing” her commercial trip to Afghanistan after he barred her from using a military aircraft, forcing her to scrap it entirely over security concerns.
The brawl between the no-nonsense Republican leader and the take-no-prisoners Democrat is the latest round in their showdown, which could take a new turn with Trump announcing he will be making a “major announcement” Saturday regarding the partial government shutdown and the situation on the US-Mexico border.
The federal government has been shuttered for four weeks over Trump’s insistence that a wider federal budget measure include billions of dollars for a border wall — and Pelosi’s refusal to go along.
Their spat spilled into the diplomatic arena Thursday when, after Pelosi suggested Trump postpone his State of the Union address until government reopens, the president grounded the military plane set to transport her delegation.
Pelosi accused Trump of being “very irresponsible” in breaching security protocol.
“We had a report from Afghanistan that the president outing our trip had made the scene on the ground much more dangerous because it’s just a signal to the bad actors that we’re coming,” she told reporters.
The administration strongly denies that it “leaked” any plans about the trip to a war zone.
“The idea we would leak anything that would put the safety and security of any American at risk is a flat-out lie,” a senior White House official said.
– Tit-for-tat –
The US government shutdown, which has left about 800,000 federal workers without a paycheck, is now the longest in the country’s history — and there is no sign of a compromise.
The Office of Management and Budget reportedly issued a memorandum saying that “under no circumstance during a government shutdown” can a congressional delegation use government aircraft for travel.
However, Republican Representative Lee Zeldin led a delegation to Iraq and other countries since the shutdown began.
With the two sides showing no sign of a breakthrough, some cash-strapped federal workers — many working without pay, others forced to stay home — are tapping life savings, selling possessions or taking advantage of food pantries to help make ends meet.
Amid the bickering, a former president called for a truce.
“It’s time for leaders on both sides to put politics aside, come together, and end this shutdown,” George W. Bush said on Instagram, where a photograph shows him handing pizzas to members of his Secret Service detail who are protecting him without pay.
Pelosi’s office sounded off on the administration’s handling of her trip, which had not been announced for security reasons.
The State Department released an updated assessment stressing that Trump’s announcement of the Pelosi travel “had significantly increased the danger to the delegation and to the troops,” her spokesman Drew Hammill said.
“This morning, we learned that the administration had leaked the commercial travel plans as well.”
Democratic lawmakers have expressed outrage.
“Disclosing ANY Members’ travel into a war zone is disgraceful and dangerous,” tweeted congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who has traveled to Afghanistan and Iraq as a lawmaker.
Republicans have spoken out too, including Senator Rob Portman who criticized the Pelosi-Trump back and forth. “They’re both making it more difficult, not easier, for us to find a resolution to this impasse,” he said.
Trump harangued Pelosi on Twitter, asking why she and other Democrats would leave the country “on a seven day excursion when 800,000 great people are not getting paid.”
His re-election campaign team then released a tongue-in-cheek shutdown-related campaign fundraising request.
For a contribution of $20.20, a reference to the next election year, the campaign told supporters it would send a fake red brick to Pelosi and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer — to build a wall.