Stephen Lynch blasts Trump for blocking trip to Afghanistan
US Congressman Stephen F. Lynch slammed President Trump on Friday, a day after Trump abruptly intervened to block a previously undisclosed trip to Afghanistan by Lynch, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and other senior members of Congress.
“It was extremely reckless and thoughtless — and potentially very dangerous — that the president announced our itinerary going into a war zone,” the Democrat said in a news conference outside his South Boston home.
The White House said it leaked nothing that would create a security risk.
On Thursday, Trump canceled a military plane that was to have carried the congressional delegation to Afghanistan and, in a letter to Pelosi that the White House released to the public, Trump suggested that the lawmakers travel by a commercial airline instead.
On Wednesday, Pelosi had asked Trump to reschedule his upcoming State of the Union address or deliver it in writing, saying the ongoing partial government shutdown — the longest in the nation’s history — made security planning for the annual speech nearly impossible.
Trump canceled the congressional trip the next day.
The president’s action, Lynch told reporters, was “spiteful,” “small-minded,” and “petty.”
“I don’t even think he gets it, what he just did. That’s the saddest part of this whole thing. . . . I think it’s just reprehensible, and the worst possible conduct, and a violation of every protocol that we have,” Lynch said, adding that the president had put lawmakers “in mortal danger.”
Lynch said the Congress members had planned to visit American troops, the Afghan president and prime minister, and nongovernmental organizations operating in the region as part of Congress’s duty to provide “vigilant oversight” on the actions of the executive branch.
He said the members of Congress learned of Trump’s letter to Pelosi “15 minutes before wheels-up” on their departing flight.
“It is dangerous under the best of circumstances,” Lynch said of travel to Afghanistan, where he has visited 14 times previously.
“But to have the president of the United States put members of Congress in physical danger because of the reckless and thoughtless way of him handling this — to put out on open media that the speaker of the House and senior members of Congress are on their way to Afghanistan, and to even suggest that the only available option for us was to fly commercial — there are very, very few flights going into [the] Kabul airport from the US.
“It basically gave the Taliban and others — ISIS, Al Qaeda — firsthand information, basically, of when our plane was coming in,” Lynch said.
Publicizing the trip, he added, also endangered the legislators’ diplomatic security team, military escorts, and aides accompanying them.
“If a member of Congress were to divulge information about a [congressional delegation], that would have serious consequences within our body,” he said. “To have the sitting president of the United States do this is disgraceful.”
He said Congress could take away the president’s power to block such trips by redirecting the budget for congressional travel to an office within the House of Representatives instead of sending those funds to the State Department, which is controlled by the executive branch.
“It’s a little bizarre that they have the ability to cut off funding for Congress to oversee . . . the president and the executive branch,” he said.
Lynch told reporters he believes the ongoing standoff between the president and congressional Democrats over funding for a wall on the nation’s southern border could be resolved. He said he and colleagues in his party were willing to negotiate with Trump, who for more than three decades has styled himself as a gifted dealmaker.
“We’re open to compromise, our side is,” he said. “If you look at [the bills congressional Democrats have filed to reopen the government], we’ve tried to incorporate some Republican ideas in our bills, as we send them over to the Senate. . . . We think we should sit down as adults and work these through.”