Trump informs Pelosi of intention to deliver State of the Union address despite government shutdown

It's unclear how Trump would address lawmakers, as the House and Senate have not yet passed a concurrent resolution

By Shira Tarlo

Published January 23, 2019 2:29PM (EST)

Nancy Pelosi; Donald Trump (Getty/Salon)
Nancy Pelosi; Donald Trump (Getty/Salon)

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he plans to deliver his State of the Union address at the Capitol building next week in spite of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's request that he postpone the speech amid the partial government shutdown.

In a letter to Pelosi, Trump dismissed the Democratic leader's concerns about security resulting from the shutdown. "It would be so very sad for our country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location!" he wrote.

It is unclear how Trump would address lawmakers in six days, as the House and Senate must pass a concurrent resolution agreeing to a joint session of Congress in order for one to officially take place. The sparring over the president's annual address to Congress comes as the federal government is in the midst of the longest shutdown in U.S. history, with hundreds of thousands of federal workers continue to work without a paycheck. The shutdown, which is currently in its 32nd day, appears to have no end in sight.

Pelosi had sent a letter to Trump earlier this month inviting him to deliver his annual address at the Capitol. However, in the wake of the budget impasse over funds to build a wall along the southern border, Pelosi wrote to Trump again last week urging him to reschedule his address or deliver it in writing, so long as the government remained shut down. She claimed that the partial government shutdown had restricted the abilities of both the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security, potentially harming the "weeks of detailed planning . . . to prepare for the safety of all participants" that precede the primetime address.

Trump responded by denying Pelosi the use of a military plane for a trip to Afghanistan "due to the shutdown." He blasted the trip as a "public relations event" — even though he made a similar stop to Iraq in December, when the government was already shut down — and claimed it would be "totally appropriate" for Pelosi to postpone her travel plans in order to remain in Washington to negotiate the reopening of the federal government.

Pelosi then accused Trump of leaking information about her trip to Afghanistan, and pointing to a formal government assessment, announced that her trip was canceled because of the "grave threats caused by the president's action." In a statement issued Friday, Pelosi's spokesperson said the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service provided a threat assessment overnight "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." The White House has denied Pelosi's claim.

In an exchange with reporters outside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on Wednesday morning, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that officials had "addressed" the safety concerns raised by Pelosi. She did provide any further details.

"The United States Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security, who would have jurisdiction over whether or not the Capitol is safe for the president to visit, have addressed those concerns," Sanders said. "I think they're the most qualified people, not only to address it, but to make that assessment."

Shira Tarlo

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