Trump doing 'alternative' event to House speech
WASHINGTON - (AP) -- President Donald Trump says he will do an "alternative" event since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has blocked him from giving his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress while the government remains partially shut down.
Trump at the White House Wednesday said the cancellation was a "disgrace." He did not detail his next move, saying: "We will be announcing what we're doing."
The California Democrat told Trump in a letter Wednesday the Democratic-controlled House won't pass the required measure for him to give the nationally televised speech from the House floor on Tuesday.
Trump said he was planning a "really important speech" and called Pelosi's move a "great blotch on the country that we all love." He argued Pelosi was blocking him because she doesn't want to hear "the truth" about border security.
Trump says he is not surprised about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi officially postponing his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress until the government is fully reopened.
Trump says Democrats have become "radicalized" and "don't want to see crime stopped, which we could very easily do on the southern border."
Trump was asked about Pelosi's action during a health care event at the White House and as the government shutdown extended into a second month.
The president said: "This will go on for a while. Ultimately the American people will have their way because they want to see no crime."
The stalemate over funding a U.S.-Mexico border wall has produced the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history.
Trump wants to deliver the speech Tuesday as planned.
President Trump said to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a letter Wednesday that there are no security concerns stemming from the government shutdown and "therefore I will be honoring your invitation."
Pelosi had asked Trump to postpone the Jan. 29 address. But Trump wrote back: "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 added: "Nancy Pelosi does not dictate to the president when he will or will not have a conversation with the American people."
She does have a say, though, on where he has that conversation.
The president cannot speak in front of a joint session of Congress without both chambers' explicit permission. A resolution needs to be approved by both chambers specifying the date and time for receiving an address from the president. State of the Union speeches routinely are delivered in the House chamber.
The Republican leader in the House, Kevin McCarthy, said the address should be "in the House chamber as we have always done. This is not the time to play politics."
But Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York said: "Unless the government is reopened, it's highly unlikely the State of the Union is going to take place on the floor of the United States House of Representatives."
Addressing the issue of security, Trump said he had been contacted by the Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service to explain that there would be "absolutely no problem regarding security" for the State of the Union and "they have since confirmed this publicly."
Officials have been considering potential alternative venues, including a rally-style event, an Oval Office address-- as Pelosi previously suggested -- a speech in the Senate chamber, and even a visit to the Mexican border. Multiple versions of the speech are being drafted to suit the final venue.
The Constitution states only that the president "shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union," meaning the president can speak anywhere he chooses or give his update in writing.
But a joint address in the House chamber, in front of lawmakers from both parties, the Supreme Court justices and invited guests, provides the kind of grand backdrop that is hard to mimic and that this president, especially, enjoys.
Still, North Carolina's House speaker, Tim Moore, has invited Trump to deliver the speech in the North Carolina House chamber. Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield has offered his state capitol. Trump spoke with both of them this week, according to Moore's office and a tweet from Chatfield.
Pelosi in her letter questioned whether the Secret Service and Homeland Security Department could provide adequate security for the speech to Congress given that they are operating without money. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said both agencies are "fully prepared to support and secure the State of the Union."
Trump countered Pelosi's letter by revoking her use of a military aircraft, thereby canceling a congressional delegation visit to Afghanistan.
In their standoff, Trump has accused Pelosi of behaving "irrationally," while Pelosi has refused to negotiate with Trump on money for his proposed border wall until he agrees to reopen the government.
Associated Press writers Kevin Freking, Andrew Taylor, Catherine Lucey and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.
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