Trump decision to ground Pelosi trip was response to her letter on State of the Union

By Major Garrett, Grace Segers

/ CBS News

Pelosi blasts Trump over canceled trip

A senior administration official directly involved in the process told CBS News that White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney reviewed a range of options Thursday morning with President Trump in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Wednesday letter suggesting a postponement of the State of the Union.

The discussion of how to respond started among Mulvaney, Trump and other senior officials in the Oval Office. It continued in the presidential limo, commonly known as the Beast, as Mr. Trump made his way to the Pentagon to deliver remarks on the missile defense strategy. Mr. Trump then conferred with acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan about the mechanics of halting the Pelosi co-delegation (codel) trip to Brussels and Afghanistan.

The senior administration official said the decision was essentially made in the Beast on the way to the Pentagon, but Mr. Trump wanted to go over all the particulars with Shanahan first before issuing the letter. The official also said it was Mr. Trump's instinct to offer no immediate reaction to Pelosi's Wednesday letter, but to let the move stand on its own. He saw it as somewhat half-baked in that the invitation to deliver the State of the Union was not withdrawn, but only a suggestion, and the security questions about giving the address were debatable.

On Thursday, Mr. Trump was ready to respond and found canceling the Pelosi codel the clearest way to get the storyline back to the one piece of ground the WH believes it has the upper hand: that it is willing to negotiate and the Democrats seemingly are not. However, from the Democratic perspective, it is Mr. Trump who is unwilling to budge on reopening the government, as he is refusing to sign any funding bill without money for a wall.

Administration officials had previously said that the decision to effectively cancel Pelosi's trip was not done in retaliation to the State of the Union letter.

Pelosi said Friday that "it was very irresponsible on the part of the president" to both announce that she and a codel of representatives intended to travel to Brussels and Afghanistan and then to ground her trip by forbidding the use of government transportation for her travel.

Pelosi told reporters that the purpose of the trip was to visit active U.S. troops in Afghanistan in what would have been her ninth trip to the country. Members of Congress were on the bus to begin their trip when the president canceled it. Pelosi said that the codel then planned to travel commercially, but the leak of the details of the trip had created a security risk.

"We weren't going to go because 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. You never give advance notice of going into a battle area. You just never do," Pelosi said. She added that the State Department had told the codel that the president's statement "had made it dangerous."

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Friday afternoon that it was "unbecoming" for the speaker to suggest that Mr. Trump's leaking of the details of the trip created a security risk.

"It is outrageous, that she would accuse the president of the United States of putting any life in jeopardy," Sanders said.

First published on January 18, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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