By Michael Hernandez
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has canceled a congressional trip to Afghanistan to visit U.S. service members there after the Trump administration leaked plans of the visit to the war-ravished country, her office said Friday.
U.S. President Donald Trump a day earlier barred Pelosi and a group of lawmakers she was leading from using a military aircraft to fly to Afghanistan -- an exceptionally rare move made just hours before they were scheduled to depart Andrews Air Force Base.
Trump suggested the delegation could instead fly on commercial aircraft one day after Pelosi asked the president to delay his State of the Union address -- planned for Jan. 29 -- until the conclusion of the ongoing partial government shutdown, which is now on day 28.
The State Department informed the Speaker's team overnight 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," Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in a statement.
The notification was followed by revelations Friday that the president's team "leaked the commercial travel plans as well," Hammill said.
The White House flatly denied the charge, saying "When the Speaker of the house and about 20 others from Capitol Hill decide to book their own commercial flights to Afghanistan, the world is going to find out.
"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 in a statement.
Hammill insisted on Twitter, however, that "Multiple admin sources were telling Hill reporters early this morning that the Speaker Pelosi delegation was flying commercially."
Trump's decision to cancel the congressional trip marked an escalation in the standoff with the Democratic leader as the president continues to seek nearly $6 billion to fund a separation barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump's acting director of the Office of Management and Budget announced Friday that the president was widening his clampdown on congressional travel during the shutdown, barring lawmakers from using any federal aircraft without approval from Trump's chief of staff.
Additionally, funds will not be dispersed for congressional travel without Mick Mulvaney's sign-off, Russell Vought said in a letter to all federal agencies.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.