Trump Responds To Pelosi By Canceling Military Air Support For Congressional Trips

President Trump responded to the suggestion that the State of the Union be rescheduled by revoking military transportation for a Congressional trip to visit troops in Afghanistan.

One day after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi suggested postponing the State of the Union in light of the government shutdown, citing what is largely a pretext of concerns about security as the reason, President Trump has responded by canceling military air support for Congressional Delegation trips scheduled to leave town today, including one that Speaker Pelosi was scheduled to be on:

WASHINGTON — President Trump retaliated on Thursday against Speaker Nancy Pelosi for threatening to cancel his planned State of the Union address, writing in a letter that he, in turn, was postponing her planned trip abroad, calling it a “public relations event.”

“I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt and Afghanistan has been postponed,” Mr. Trump wrote. “We will reschedule this seven day excursion when the shutdown is over.”

Military transport is traditionally provided to the House speaker or congressional delegations for foreign trips. Ms. Pelosi was scheduled to depart Thursday afternoon, joined by Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the intelligence committee and Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the foreign affairs committee, and other members of Congress.

The trips are traditionally kept secret when lawmakers are heading to wars zones. But the White House has known about it since early last week, when it was brought to its attention by the Defense Department, according to White House officials.

Some members of the congressional delegation were seen at the Capitol getting off an Air Force bus, which was going to take them to Joint Base Andrews to depart on their trip.

“We’re going off to Afghanistan,” said Representative Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts, one of the delegation’s members after getting off the bus. “We should be allowed to do our oversight.”

In his letter, tinged with sarcasm, the president wrote that Ms. Pelosi could still take the trip if she chose to fly commercial.

He wrote: “It would be better if you were in Washington, negotiating with me and joining the Strong Border Security movement to end the shutdown.”

The letter was the first response from the White House, which had stayed uncharacteristically silent after being caught off guard Wednesday by Ms. Pelosi’s threat to reschedule the Jan. 29 State of the Union address in light of the partial government shutdown.

Here’s the letter:

The Congressional Delegation (CODEL) trip was scheduled to depart for Joint Base Andrews at 3:00 p.m. today Washington time, and the letter was apparently sent shortly after 2:00 p.m. when Pelosi and other Members of Congress were either already sitting on an Air Force bus waiting to leave Capitol Hill or on their way there for a flight that was scheduled to depart at 3:30 p.m. today. Additionally, while Trump’s letter only refers to the CODEL that Speaker Pelosi was scheduled to be on, the White House has apparently confirmed that the decision to cancel military air support for all CODELs that were scheduled during the time the shutdown is going on. The Pelosi-led CODEL was scheduled to stop in Brussels both to refuel and to allow Pelosi and other Members of Congress to meet with NATO representatives. From there, it would have apparently gone on for another refueling stop in Egypt, with the ultimate destination being Afghanistan. Until now, the CODEL had been as secretive as a Presidential trip to a war zone would be, but Trump ruined that when he made the destination of the trip public. It’s also worth noting that his suggestion that Pelosi fly commercial is absurd both due to the obvious security concerns of the person who is second in line to the Presidency traveling to a war zone and the fact that there aren’t exactly a lot of commercial flight to Kabul. Meanwhile, while the President is canceling military air support for CODELs, he is not doing so for the delegation of Cabinet officials led by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin that will be traveling to Switzerland for the financial and business conference in Davos.

Clearly, this is as much of a political move on Trump’s part as Pelosi’s suggestion regarding the State of the Union was, although in both cases the action was most certainly within their power given the positions that they hold. While both letters from each side refer to negotiations regarding reopening the government, the fact of the matter is that there are no negotiations going on and, thanks to the President, no sign that any such negotiations are planned or that they are even going, and no sign that any such talks would even be productive. What happened here is pretty obvious, President Trump, who uncharacteristically had not responded to Pelosi’s letter either via his Press Office or on Twitter likely spent the better part of the day yesterday grousing about the fact that Pelosi had pulled the rug out from under him with regard to the State of the Union. In his mind, he needed to show his base that he isn’t weak and that he can stand up a woman like Pelosi, who he has generally treated with kid gloves compared to other Democrats. So basically, the President is deprived of the pageantry and free air time granted by the State of the Union and Pelosi gets denied a military airplane for a trip that was ultimately about visiting American troops in Afghanistan. Seems to me that Pelosi hasn’t lost much of anything and that Trump comes across looking like a petty jerk. Really, though, the whole thing is just dumb and will not lead to anyone getting any closer to solving the shutdown.

Senator Lindsey Graham criticizes both sides:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) wants the president and speaker to play nice.

The feud between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the partial government shutdown reached new levels this week when Pelosi essentially uninvited the president from delivering the State of the Union in the House Chamber. Trump, in turn, barred Pelosi from boarding a government plane for a trip to Afghanistan just under an hour before she was scheduled to leave.

“Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative,” Trump wrote.

Each side cited the government shutdown in foiling the other’s plans. Pelosi argued it would not be possible to secure the Capitol when so many federal workers are going unpaid. Trump said it would be “inappropriate” for Pelosi to travel with no deal to end the shutdown in sight.

But Graham said both sides were just being petty.

“One sophomoric response does not deserve another,” Graham wrote Thursday on Twitter. “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.”

The whole thing is just sophomoric, really, but then perhaps that is an insult. To Sophomores.

Update: The President has also canceled the visit of several Administration and Cabinet officials to Davos.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Congress, The Presidency, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. EddieinCA says:

    Trump Cabinet Members are scheduled to travel to Davos in the next week or so….

    That should make for great optics for him if they go.

    It’s amazing reading the right-wing sites and reading the comments (Hot Air, The Resurgent, The Federalist) seeing how they see it 180 degrees from my POV. They’re giddy that Trump pulled this move, whereas I see it giving Pelosi a chance have Trump score an own goal, when she says “I agree. The shutdown is more important.”

  2. inhumans99 says:

    So, our President is mulling over using the military as his own private construction crew to build the wall (by declaring a national emegency) and Nancy Pelosi wants to visit the troops who are actually keeping us safe from terrorists, but because Pelosi suggested he delay his SOTU so as to work on reopening the government he now tells her…bite me.

    Wow…just, wow, Graham needs to put down the whiskey glass and sober up. If our President causes the military to take a hard turn against the GOP than folks like Graham are beyond screwed. It is very dangerous for President Trump to drag the military into his spat with Pelosi. I have to imagine military brass are wincing that our President retaliates against Pelosi by denying members of Congress from meeting with the troops.

    One does have to wonder when Graham really will stop with the musty both sides are bad schtick…he has to know the optics of this do not make the GOP look good.

  3. MarkedMan says:

    Most of us here seeing it as yet another instance of the President as a sulky 13 year boy lashing out. And of course the Trumpers see it all as part of his amazing negotiating skills. I wonder what the silent majority make of it.

  4. Paul L. says:

    Trump comes across looking like a petty jerk.

    And Pelosi comes across looking like a true Statesperson.

    Mine are bigger than Yours.

  5. Stormy Dragon says:

    The CODEL should, instead, fly commercially to Elizabeth City, NC, home of the largest Coast Guard Air Station, and meet with the guardsmen there being forced to work without pay.

    The media can have a nice split screen of that going on while Mick Mulvaney hobnobs with elite in Davos.

    Heck, since they’re flying commercially anyways, there’s also time to meet TSA and ATC people who also aren’t getting paid along the way.

  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    That would be an excellent play for Pelosi.

  7. gVOR08 says:

    I wish Speaker Pelosi a quick recovery from biting her lip to keep from laughing.

  8. James Pearce says:

    But Graham said both sides were just being petty.

    He’s not wrong…

  9. Stormy Dragon says:

    Meanwhile in Mar-a-lago:

    EXEC1F – #MelaniaForceOne climbing out from Joint Base Andrews US Air ForceC-32A 98-0001— CivMilAir ✈ (@CivMilAir) January 17, 2019

  10. Kathy says:


    I’d bet 100 to 1 that soon Trump will claim Pelosi has never met with the troops before, and neither has any other Democrat in the House, and they’re all just trying to copy him visiting the troops in Iraq.

  11. CSK says:

    The Trumpkins over at are thrilled beyond measure: “Our PDJT clanks when he walks!”

  12. Teve says:

    “Our PDJT clanks when he walks!”

    Stay classy Trump chumps.

    Lotta people on Twitter are saying davos has been cancelled now too.

  13. Stormy Dragon says:

    Awww, Mick’s little party got cancelled:

    Just in from @PressSec: “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."— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) January 17, 2019

    Womp, womp.

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Senator Lindsey Graham criticizes both sides:

    Well of course he does. Pretending to be above it all by never taking a stand on one side or the other is what he does best.

  15. mattbernius says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    I can’t figure out whether or not that bit of consistency is a self-own or gave Trump and team a great excuse to get out of a trip that would have been politically embarrassing.

    My sense is that they didn’t think about the Davos trip prior to the Pelosi decision (otherwise it would have been included in the letter). So as with Syria this could a case of making the right decision for the wrong reasons.

  16. EddieInCA says:


    See my comment above. In my opinion, it’s an own-goal. They didn’t think it through.

    Furthermore, you can be certain that alot of military brass are pissed off that Trump gave the Taliban an heads up that the Speaker of the House was coming to Afghanistan. You should see Jake Tapper today, talking about this. I don’t know I’ve ever seen Tapper so pissed off.

  17. mattbernius says:

    Hey, just wanted to give you props for your prediction. We’re in agreement about the own-goal…

  18. Stormy Dragon says:


    Trump is fraying nerves inside the Pentagon

    The latest and most explicit public example came Thursday during a speech the President gave at the Pentagon on missile defense, which was laden with partisan references to the border wall and the government shutdown.

    Trump blamed what he called Democratic “fringe” party members, who he equated to “the radical left,” for a lack of progress toward reopening the government amid negotiations surrounding the border wall. “While many Democrats in the House and Senate would like to make a deal, (House) Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi will not let them negotiate,” Trump said. “The party has been hijacked by the open borders fringe within the party. The radical left becoming the radical Democrats.”

    As Trump made these comments, the room remained silent with no applause.

  19. Scott says:

    It would be great for a NATO member, like Britain, France, or Germany to volunteer to fly the CODEL to Brussels and on to Afghanistan where they could discuss their support for NATO as well as visit and thank the NATO troops supporting us. Trump pout to follow.

  20. Hal_10000 says:

    I’m probably in the minority in thinking the President is doing the right thing for stupid reasons. Congress members should not be going on foreign junkets right now that accomplish little other than making them look and feel important. Every agency in the government and many contractors are cancelling all travel right now to get through the ongoing crisis. Congress can as well.

  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    I generally find it unhelpful to overstate a person’s cleverness, but it almost makes you wonder if Pelosi spoon-fed this to Trump, knowing his reaction would look weak and childish. Tit for tat is a game for equals – advantage Nancy.

  22. Jen says:


    Congress members should not be going on foreign junkets right now

    CODELs to war zones are not “foreign junkets.” They take months to prepare. Generally speaking, I’m in agreement with you but this wasn’t a run of the mill trip to Rome or Geneva.

  23. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @mattbernius: Has Trump ever in 2 years time made the right decision simply because it was right? Has he ever made a smart decision other than by blind luck? Are the Republicans in the House and Senate any more principled, intelligent, or wise than Trump is? And still 70+% of Republicans are just as witless, bitter, mangled of intellect, and pathetic as their leaders are.

    Talk about “Sad. Pathetic. Low Energy.”

  24. Joe says:

    After Trump’s nail-bitey account of flying in in the dark, Nancy should get some NATO fighter/flier to paratroop her in just before dawn. Then my week would be made.

  25. An Interested Party says:

    Prospective Democratic presidential candidates must be chomping at the bit to run against this chump next year…now that he has been fully exposed for the pathetic little person that he is, and without the luxury of running against someone who is openly loathed by large chunks of the population, he will be in quite an unenviable position if he decides to run for reelection…

  26. gVOR08 says:

    Lawrence O’Donnell is saying that as part of the security rules adopted after 9/11 the second in line for the Presidency, the Speaker of the House, is not allowed to fly commercial.

  27. gVOR08 says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Prospective Democratic presidential candidates must be chomping at the bit to run against this chump next year…

    As confirmed by the number of Dems lining up to do so.

  28. An Interested Party says:

    As confirmed by the number of Dems lining up to do so.

    True…I mean, when you have people like Tulsi Gabbard running…

  29. KM says:

    @gVOR08 :

    Well then, there’s always private jets. Just submit the bill to Donald personally and claim that since he’s so concerned with the shutdown and money, he should be paying it out of pocket to ensure 3rd in line to the Presidency is protected! After all, isn’t it his job as CiC and Chief Executive to ensure the safety and continuity of the Presidential line? If he can do Big Macs for a feast, he can spring for a jet for work!

  30. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    Except that junket is back on…

  31. Eric Florack says:

    While I think canceling such trips are a stroke of genius on Trump’s part, I think the point probably would have been better made if he had waited until such time as she and her Entourage of liberals has landed in Afghanistan and then cancel the return flight.