Melania Trump flew to Florida on Thursday for a weekend vacation on a government plane, a law enforcement source confirmed to NBC News, just after President Trump issued a letter denying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi the use of a government plane to visit troops in Afghanistan and stating she could make her journey “by flying commercial.”
The first lady is expected to spend the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend at the Trumps’ Mar-a-Lago resort as the president is expected to remain in Washington, as the government shutdown drags on.
OH BOY … EXEC1F is the call sign for an airplane when the first lady is on board. https://t.co/kR3uVPWTNO
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) January 17, 2019
Politico Playbook co-author Jake Sherman tweeted on Thursday that he was listening to air traffic control and that EXEC1F, the call sign for an aircraft with the first lady on board, “appears to be headed to Palm Beach,” where Mar-a-Lago is located.
Quartz estimates that the flight cost US taxpayers $35,000.
In a letter to Pelosi earlier on Thursday, Trump wrote, “Due to the shutdown, I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt and Afghanistan has been postponed. We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the shutdown is over.
“Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative,” the president added.
Trump said that postponing “this public relations event is totally appropriate,” given 800,000 American workers are not being paid during the shutdown. “I also feel that, during this period, it would be better if you were in Washington negotiating with me and joining the Strong Border Security movement to end the shutdown,” he added.
The letter came less than 24 hours after Pelosi sent a letter to the president suggesting that his State of the Union address scheduled for January 29 should be postponed because of “security concerns and unless government re-opens this week.
Pelosi slammed Trump on Friday for publicly leaking the details of a Congressional trip that was meant to thank the troops and “to get a measure of the leadership of Afghanistan, a strength of their military, the morale of their people.”
“We weren’t going to go because we had a report from Afghanistan that the president outing our trip had made the scene on the ground much more dangerous, because it’s just a signal to the bad actors that we’re coming,” she continued. “You never give advance notice of going into a battle area. You just never do.”
Pelosi noted that only an “inexperienced” president would make such a mistake, but that “the people around him should have known that.” She added that his comments put everyone at risk.
“The fact that they would leak that we were flying commercial is a danger not only to us but to other people flying commercially,” Pelosi said. “It’s very irresponsible on the part of the president.”
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump traveled to Iraq to visit U.S. troops on the day after Christmas, several days into the shutdown that is now in its fourth week.