Trump sends Capitol Hill into chaos after cancelling congressional trip to Afghanistan

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ARLINGTON, VA - JANUARY 17: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald J. Trump speaks during a Missile Defense Review announcement on January 17, 2019 at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Virginia. Trump pushed for a more aggressive missle defense system to counter threats from North Korea, Russia and China. (Photo by Martin H. Simon - Pool/Getty Images)President Donald TrumpMartin H. Simon - Pool/Getty Images

  • President Trump canceled a congressional delegation plan to travel to Afghanistan this weekend in retaliation for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's suggestion the State of the Union be postponed until the partial government shutdown is over.
  • Members of Congress had already boarded a bus preparing to depart on the trip.
  • Furious lawmakers had to leave the bus, which drove laps around the Capitol grounds attempting to lose the large contingent of cameras and media surrounding it.

WASHINGTON - When President Donald Trump canceled a congressional delegation traveling to Afghanistan on Thursday, he set off a firestorm of angry lawmakers that resulted in a wild goose chase around the grounds of the United States Capitol Building.

To retaliate for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's suggestion the State of the Union be postponed until the partial government shutdown is over or instead be submitted in writing, Trump nixed the trip to Afghanistan, which included a stop in Brussels for members of Congress to meet with military officials and NATO partners.

Read more: Nancy Pelosi suggests Trump either postpone his State of the Union address until after the government shutdown ends, or submit it in writing

The decision infuriated Democrats and Republicans alike.

Congressional delegations are often key for lawmakers to familiarize themselves with issues and situations around the globe, as well as to perform oversight on what the US military is doing in certain parts of the world.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat in the House, called Trump's decision "petty and ridiculous" and that it "demeans the presidency, as is almost a daily occurrence."

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, typically a close ally of Trump, issued a scathing statement about the move.

"One sophomoric response does not deserve another," Graham said in a statement. "Speaker Pelosi's threat to cancel the State of the Union is very irresponsible and blatantly political. President Trump denying Speaker Pelosi military travel to visit our troops in Afghanistan, our allies in Egypt and NATO is also inappropriate."

Graham, who one Senate aide said could be heard shouting in his office at the matter, added that while he is disappointed in how Pelosi is handling the State of the Union situation, he is "glad the Speaker wants to meet our troops and hear from our commanders and allies."

"I wish our political leadership could find the same desire to work for common goals as those who serve our nation in uniform and other capacities," Graham said.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said the purpose of the trip was to "to affirm the United States' ironclad commitment to the NATO alliance" and "express appreciation and thanks to our men and women in uniform for their service and dedication, and to obtain critical national security and intelligence briefings from those on the front lines." 

Wild goose chase around the Capitol

Early in the morning, luggage and signs for the congressional delegation were placed by the military liaison offices in the Rayburn House office building. 

Trump's move came near the end of the day, just when lawmakers were boarding a United States Air Force bus preparing to take them to the chartered flights for the trip.

Dozens of reporters and television cameras were staking out the bus, which members of Congress departed to head back into the Capitol. But some stayed on board, prompting the bus driver to drive laps around the US Capitol grounds.

Reporters and cameras followed in pursuit by sprinting after the bus as Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the current chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, departed into one of the garages of congressional office buildings.

The House is slated to be in session next week for votes as the partial government shutdown prolongs further into record-breaking territory. As for any trip abroad, it appears members of Congress will have to stay in Washington for the time being.

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