WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s conflict with Democrats over a partial U.S. government shutdown escalated on Thursday with Mr. Trump denying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi use of military aircraft for an overseas trip in apparent retaliation for her suggestion that he delay the annual State of the Union address.
The rising tension suggested that the shutdown, now in its 27th day, remains far from being resolved.
In the meantime, the Trump administration continued to try to mitigate the shutdown’s impact. The State Department said it would call its furloughed employees back to work next week for national security reasons.
Pelosi had been scheduled to travel on a military aircraft as part of a congressional delegation to Belgium, where NATO is based, and Afghanistan to visit American troops stationed there.
In a letter to Pelosi denying her delegation the use of a plane, Trump wrote, “In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate,” Mr. Trump wrote.
He told Pelosi she could make the trip by flying commercial.
Trump’s intervention stopped the trip just as Pelosi and other lawmakers were about to travel.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the president had acted within his authority as commander in chief.
“He postponed her ability to use military air, which must be approved” by the Department of Defense, Sanders said.
A spokesman for Pelosi, Drew Hammill, said the trip to Brussels was intended “to affirm the United States’ ironclad commitment to the NATO alliance.”
The Afghanistan leg of the trip would have obtained “critical national security and intelligence briefings from those on the front lines,” Hammill said.
A House Democratic aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that details of the trip were not supposed to be revealed for security reasons, as is customary. The White House, however, made the letter to Pelosi detailing the itinerary public.
A U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Pelosi had requested and been granted Defense Department support for overseas travel, although the president has the authority to cancel Pelosi’s travel.
At the Capitol, members of the delegation had already boarded a bus bound for Joint Base Andrews just outside Washington, from which the plane was set to depart, when news of Mr. Trump’s decision broke.
It appeared to be a response to a letter Pelosi sent to Trump on Tuesday, suggesting he delay the annual State of the Union address to Congress, scheduled for Jan. 29, to some point after the government reopens.
Pelosi cited concerns over the capacity of the Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service to safeguard the Capitol during the event. The agency later said it was capable of securing the venue.
Mr. Trump’s action drew criticism from one of his Republican allies in the Senate. “One sophomoric response does not deserve another,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham wrote on Twitter.
Updated Thursday, January 17, 2019 at 8:47 pm .