House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has proposed that President Trump postpone his Jan. 29 State of the Union address until after the partial government shutdown ends, arguing that a lack of funding for Homeland Security and U.S. Secret Service agents presents a serious security risk to the White House and Congress.
The agencies charged with protecting the nation’s lawmaker, however, are disputing her suggestion that they are unable to perform their duties on account of Washington gridlock.
“The Department of Homeland Security and the US Secret Service are fully prepared to support and secure the State of the Union. We thank the Service for their mission focus and dedication and for all they do each day to secure our homeland,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement released hours after Pelosi first pitched her proposal in a letter delivered to the White House.
Nielsen’s pushback is especially notable considering she is mentioned by name in Pelosi’s letter.
“In September 2018, Secretary Nielsen designated State of the Union Addresses as National Special Security Events (NSSEs), recognizing the need for ‘the full resources of the Federal Government to be brought to bear’ to ensure the security of these events. The extraordinary demands presented by NSSEs require weeks of detailed planning with dozens of agencies working together to prepare for the safety of all participants,” Pelosi’s letter reads.
It continues, explaining that the Secret Service is the agency responsible for planning and protecting “National Special Security Events.”
“However, both the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security have not been funded for 26 days now — with critical departments hamstrung by furloughs,” the letter adds. “Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has re-opened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on January 29th.”
Pelosi’s supposed safety concerns are unfounded, according to a Secret Service official who spoke with NBC News.
“It’s a no-fail mission,” the official told NBC News’ Pete Williams, adding that the “intelligence and protection functions” are “fully staffed” even though the government is shut down. “We’ve been planning for this for months, as we always do. It didn’t start up 29 days ago.”
Of course, did anyone really need remarks from a Secret Service official or Kirstjen Nielsen to know that Pelosi’s stated reason for wanting to postpone the State of the Union address is almost certainly political theater?
The speaker extended the invite to President Trump on Jan. 3, 12 days into the partial government shutdown. We’re to believe that she just now decided that a lack of government funding might potentially create security risks for the president’s televised, in-person address before Congress? Come on.
Pelosi, for her part, is sticking to her story, contradictory statements from the people charged with the president’s and Congress’ safety notwithstanding.
“I have made it clear,” Pelosi told the Washington Examiner’s Susan Ferrechio Wednesday. “This is a continuation of government issue that we have the proper security for such an event.”