CAPITOL HILL —
U.S. President Donald Trump says he will make a major announcement about the government shutdown and border security during an address to the nation Saturday.
Trump said the announcement from the White House would take place at 3 p.m. and would address “the humanitarian crisis on our southern border.”
A standoff between Democrats and Republicans over funding for construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border led to a partial government shutdown that is entering its fifth week.
Trump has called for more than $5 billion in taxpayer funding for the wall, while Democrats have offered $1.3 billion in new money for border security, but none specifically for a wall.
Shutdown travel dispute
The dispute over the wall and the government shutdown also led to a dispute between Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over her plans to travel to Afghanistan.
Pelosi accused the White House on Friday of leaking information about her planned trip to fly commercially to Afghanistan after Trump denied Pelosi the use of a military plane for the trip.
Pelosi said it was “very irresponsible on the part of the president” to release details about her sensitive travel plans, which the State Department said significantly increased the security threat on the ground.
The White House denied leaking Pelosi’s flight plans.
Trump on Thursday revoked the use of a military plane for Pelosi and Democratic members of Congress to fly to Afghanistan to visit U.S. troops and to Brussels to meet with NATO allies. It was the latest maneuver in a bitter political battle over the shutdown, which is now the longest such government stoppage in U.S. history.
In a letter to the speaker, the president said that “in light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate.”
A spokesperson for Pelosi’s office said the trip would have provided “critical national security and intelligence briefings” as well as served as an opportunity for Pelosi to thank the troops.
The speaker’s office said, “In light of the grave threats caused by the president’s action, the delegation has decided to postpone the trip so as not to endanger our troops or security personnel.”
The president’s letter did not directly address Pelosi’s call Wednesday for Trump to delay his scheduled Jan. 29 State of the Union address until government funding was restored and the shutdown ended.
“This is completely inappropriate by the president,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told reporters outside Pelosi’s office Thursday. “We’re not going to allow the president of the United States to tell the Congress it can’t fulfill its oversight responsibilities.”
No end in sight to shutdown
The back-and-forth between the White House and the speaker indicated there was no end in sight to the standoff.
“While many Democrats in the House and Senate would like to make a deal, Speaker Pelosi won’t let them negotiate,” Trump said in a speech at the Defense Department. “Hopefully, Democrat lawmakers will step forward to do what is right for our country, and what’s right for our country is border security at the strongest level.”
Democrats insist they will negotiate stronger, more effective border security measures once the government reopens, but that a border wall would be wasteful, ineffective and a blight on America’s image.
Pelosi, the top-ranking congressional Democrat, said Trump’s “insistence on the wall is a luxury we can no longer afford.”
Later Thursday, Trump also canceled a planned trip by a U.S. delegation to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The delegation, consisting of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and presidential assistant Chris Liddell, was scheduled to travel next week.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the president wanted to make sure “his team can assist as needed” during the government shutdown.
Workers missing paychecks
Hundreds of thousands of federal workers missed a paycheck last week and are set to miss another next week.
“Not only are these workers not paid, they are not appreciated by this administration,” said Pelosi. “We should respect what they do for their country.”
Pelosi’s move on the State of the Union drew sharp criticism from Senate Republicans.
“By disinviting POTUS for SOTU, Pelosi erased any pretext for her unwillingness to negotiate an end to the shutdown. It is personal, petty and vindictive,” Sen. John Cornyn of Texas tweeted Thursday.