Pelosi faces tough decision with Trump

After a nasty tit-for-tat with President TrumpDonald John TrumpMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns Trump's doctor issues letter addressing 'speculation' about visit to Walter Reed MORE over the shutdown this week, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFeehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Key GOP senator: 'We need a breakthrough' on spending talks Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Stopgap spending bill includes military pay raise | Schumer presses Pentagon to protect impeachment witnesses | US ends civil-nuclear waiver in Iran MORE (D-Calif.) faces a delicate decision: whether to rescind her invitation for Trump’s State of the Union speech later this month.

Such a move could deny Trump a huge megaphone to tout his border wall amid the ongoing budget impasse, but would also inflame tensions between the sniping power brokers and complicate bipartisan efforts to end the longest government closure in the nation’s history.

Upon taking the gavel at the start of the year, Pelosi had invited Trump to give the address on Jan. 29 — an annual event, draped in pageantry and tradition, that provides the president an enormous platform to promote his agenda for the coming year.

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On Wednesday, day 26 of the history-making shutdown,  Pelosi took the remarkable step of asking Trump to delay the address until the government is fully funded. Yet she did not go so far as to disinvite him, instead suggesting that, “unless government reopens this week,” the pair “work together to determine another suitable date.” 

On Friday, Pelosi amplified that message.

“He’s been invited,” she told reporters in the Capitol. “All we said is, ‘Let’s work together for another date when government is open.’ ” 

Yet Trump has not responded directly to Pelosi’s entreaty. Instead, he escalated the feud on Thursday when he blocked a trip Pelosi and several other Democrats had planned to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan by denying them access to military aircraft. 

The squabbling intensified even further on Friday when Pelosi, who had quietly rescheduled the fact-finding trip on commercial flights, abruptly canceled that back-up plan — citing security concerns — after she said the White House leaked the news of their travel.

Pelosi characterized the leak as dangerous breach of convention, warning that broadcasting travel by political figures into war zones heightens the risk of attack. 

“We never give advance notice of going into a battle area — we just never do,” Pelosi said. “Perhaps the president's inexperience didn't have him understand that protocol. People around him, though, should have known that because that's very dangerous.”

The remarkable back-and-forth highlights the extent to which the debate over how to reopen the government — an impasse hinging on funding for Trump’s promised border wall — has deteriorated from a budget negotiation into a barroom brawl. 

Although roughly three-quarters of the federal government has been funded through September, the remainder lost funding on Dec. 22 and has remained shuttered ever since. Trump has insisted that the outstanding spending bills include $5.7 billion for new construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, a central promise of his 2016 campaign. That provision is a non-starter with the Democrats, who have offered $1.3 billion for alternative border security measures, but won’t accept a dime for new border barriers.

What happens next — or who takes the next step — is anyone’s guess. 

Trump late Friday said he would be making an announcement on Saturday afternoon about the shutdown and the crisis on the southern border, a signal he may be warming once again to declaring a national emergency to end the shutdown and fund the wall. Declaring the emergency would allow Trump to fund the wall while circumventing Congress, though it would also invite lawsuits.

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If Trump does not back down or declare an emergency, it seems likely that Pelosi will have to make her difficult decision on the State of the Union, which is now less than two weeks away.

While the White House has not responded formally to Pelosi’s postponement request, top administration officials have sent signals that they’re forging ahead with the idea that the speech will proceed as scheduled. 

Leaders of the Homeland Security Department and Secret Service, which have both been affected by the partial shutdown, asserted this week that they’ll have the resources to ensure the Capitol is secure during the high-profile address, even if parts of the government remain unfunded at the time.

Those pronouncements have undermined Pelosi’s initial justification for the delay request, which hinged on security concerns. More recently, she’s said she has full faith in the security agencies to protect the Capitol during the speech, but simply wants those personnel to be paid for their efforts. 

“[Those] who are preparing for the security of the president, the vice president, the House, the Senate, the Cabinet, the Supreme Court and the diplomatic corps, the joint chiefs of staff — that those people who are working so hard to secure this site will be paid,” Pelosi said Friday. 

She did not float the option of revoking her invitation for the speech, and her office did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Some Democrats, meanwhile, are warning that the way to confront Trump — a mercurial figure known for lashing out at his adversaries — is to avoid playing his game. 

“I’m convinced that we’re not going to beat Donald Trump by trying to be Donald Trump,” Julián Castro, former Housing and Urban Development secretary under President Obama who’s running for president in 2020, said Friday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Castro was referring to the 2020 Democratic hopefuls, but his message could be extrapolated to apply also to the long-running shutdown negotiations.

“You’re never going to out-gutter Donald Trump,” he said.