Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that she had intended to still go on her congressional delegation trip — also commonly referred to as a CODEL — to Afghanistan, even after President Donald Trump refused her the use of a military plane, but was forced to cancel due to security concerns created by Trump's announcement.
What did Trump say?
On Thursday, the White House released a letter from Trump stating that he was postponing a CODEL that Pelosi and several other congressmen had planned to take that day aboard a military aircraft. The letter noted that the trip would have gone to "Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan."
Though the president has the authority to refuse the use of a military plane, he does not have the power to prevent Congress from sending a delegation overseas, something Trump alluded to in the letter. "Obviously," he said, "if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative."
While Trump referred to the trip as a "seven day excursion" and a "public relations event," a spokesman for Pelosi issued a statement soon afterward saying that the purpose of the trip "was to express appreciation & thanks to our men & women in uniform for their service & dedication, & to obtain critical national security & intelligence briefings from those on the front lines."
What did Pelosi say?
According to a statement released Friday by Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill, after Trump canceled her flight on the military plane, Speaker Pelosi's office immediately began making plans to fly commercial. Those plans were later scrapped due to security concerns.
In the middle of the night, the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service provided an updated threat assessment detailing that the President announcing this sensitive travel had significantly increased the danger to the delegation and to the troops, security, and other officials supporting the trip....This morning, we learned that the Administration had leaked the commercial travel plans as well.
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 unnamed White House official quickly shot back, telling Reuters that "[t]he idea we would leak anything that would put the safety and security of any American at risk is an offensive flat out lie."
Hammill responded to this rebuttal, tweeting, "Multiple admin sources were telling Hill reporters early this morning that the Speaker Pelosi delegation was flying commercially."
In addition to Pelosi's delegation, the Trump administration announced that it would not allow any CODELs to use military aircraft as long as the shutdown lasted.
On Friday, Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget Russell Vought released a statement instructing that:
Under no circumstances during a government shutdown will any government owned, rented, leased, or chartered aircraft support any Congressional delegation, without the express written approval of the White House Chief of Staff. Nor will any funds appropriated to the Executive Branch be used for any Congressional delegation travel expenses, without his express written approval.