A White House interfering in a congressional delegation trip to a war zone is almost unheard of in and of itself. So imagine what was going through Speaker Nancy Pelosi's mind when, after President Trump cancelled a "codel" to Afghanistan, she was told the Trump administration leaked her plans to fly commercial instead.
She spoke to reporters about it briefly after returning to the Capitol Friday. By then, the White House had told me and others that no one there leaked. "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," an official said. "The idea we would leak anything that would put the safety and security of any American at risk is a flat out lie."
You can imagine how angry Pelosi might be, and I'm sure she was. But read the transcript of her remarks. The words are calm, but they cut. In them you find both the discipline that she is sticking to -- the Democrats want to cast themselves as the level-headed, sane ones -- and that scalpel-like ability to slice up the president over his actions. Here's our Daily News story on it, and here's the full transcript:
Q: Madam Speaker, could you just talk about what has transpired over the last 15-16 hours?
Speaker Pelosi: It transpired over – since 2 p.m. yesterday. Our Members who were on the bus – I was ready to join them for a 2:15 wheels up from here to Andrews Air Force Base to visit our troops, pay our respects; to thank them for their service, their sacrifice and their dedication; to get a measure of the leadership of Afghanistan, strength of their military, the morale of their people.
It's about governance, it's about security, it's about the civilian affairs in the country as we make our oversight decisions about our policy, the engagement that we have in Afghanistan. The Members were on the bus already, I was about to join them and the President then canceled the trip. It was kind of a funny letter – saying seven days, going to Egypt – somebody didn't tell him it was a quick weekend trip, but nonetheless, that served his purpose.
Forgetting him for a moment, not only that, but we had the prerogative to travel commercially and we made plans to do that until the Administration leaked we were traveling commercially and that endangers us. 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. Perhaps the President's inexperience, didn't have him understand that protocol. The people around him, though, should have known that. That's very dangerous.
And then – so we're saying, well, it's not only been our safety, that's one thing, but the more important thing is the people who we would be meeting with, our civilians there, our own troops, first and foremost – again, they take so many risks for us. We didn't want to heighten the risk for them.
So then we can go commercially, so we say, let's review this in light of the State Department's report that the President's statement has heightened the danger on the ground. As we're making that decision, all of us together, then the State Department doubles down and says we don't think you should come because the President's statement has made it dangerous.
The fact that they would leak that we were flying commercial is a danger not only to us but to other people flying commercially. It's very irresponsible on the part of the President.
We'll go again. We'll go another time. This would have been my ninth trip. One of my colleagues, it was his fifteenth trip, but we've been many times to see what the needs are of our men and women in uniform, honor those needs and thank those troops.
Q: How do you know the leak came from the White House? The White House has denied the leak came from them.
Speaker Pelosi: I rest my case.
Q: Do you view this as retaliation for your letter?
Speaker Pelosi: I would hope not. I don't think the President would be that petty, do you?
Q: You're potentially accusing the president of endangering the lives of our Americans and our troops. That’s extraordinary, isn’t it?
Speaker Pelosi: That's what the State Department reported to us. I’m just saying the State Department reported it to us.
This is a fact, this isn't even an opinion. Any time anyone with a bright light, of the presence of a high-level, or any level of Congressional Delegation in a region, you’ve heightened the danger. And this was a high power.
We had the leadership of the Intelligence Committee, the Armed Services Committee, the Veteran Affairs Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, Government Reform Committee, Subcommittee on Terrorism, and we're very proud of the freshman on the trip – 20 years of experience in the military. I’m just telling you what the State Department told us.