The White House says it is forging ahead with plans for President Donald Trump to deliver his State of the Union address at the Capitol next week, even as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appears entrenched in her request for Trump to postpone the speech until the government reopens.
Over the holiday weekend, the White House asked for – but was denied – a walk-through by the House of Representatives’ sergeant-at-arms in preparation of the speech. Still, on Tuesday a senior White House official said the administration is “moving forward” with plans for the speech at the US Capitol.
White House officials have continued working on the President’s speech and been mulling other plans for its delivery in the event Trump cannot address the joint session of Congress next week.
“If the speaker withdraws the invite for 1/29, contingencies need to be planned,” a senior White House official told CNN’s Jim Acosta.
“She invited us. We accepted,” another official said of Pelosi. “She cited security concerns. (The Department of Homeland Security) responded to those. And we are moving forward.”
But regardless of the White House’s preparations, Trump will not be able to deliver his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress unless the House and Senate pass resolutions convening the session. That means Pelosi remains in the driver’s seat – and the House speaker has yet to take the necessary steps to permit the President give his speech at the Capitol as previously scheduled.
Officials have been weighing alternative venues – including delivering the speech outside of Washington at a political rally – but are waiting to gauge Pelosi’s next move.
Pelosi asked Trump in a letter last week to reschedule his speech until the government reopens or deliver it in writing to Congress, citing security concerns given Secret Service and Homeland Security officials are working without pay. Trump has not formally responded to Pelosi’s letter beyond canceling the speaker’s war zone trip to Afghanistan a day after receiving her speech request.
On Sunday, he tweeted: “Nancy, I am still thinking about the State of the Union speech, there are so many options - including doing it as per your written offer (made during the Shutdown, security is no problem), and my written acceptance. While a contract is a contract, I’ll get back to you soon!”
The White House’s request to the sergeant-at-arms came on Sunday, days after the sergeant-at-arms postponed a planned White House walk-through in the wake of Pelosi’s letter.
In an email, the White House’s director of presidential advance Bobby Peede requested on Sunday the sergeant-at-arms reschedule a walk-through for Monday, which was a federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.
“Given that we have lost valuable time over the past week my team would like to re-schedule the walkthrough for this Monday, if at all possible. Our team would consist of POTUS/OVP staff advance, USSS PPD/VPD and WHMO components. We understand that the House Chamber may not be available or be in session and would be happy to meet at any time, day or night,” Peede wrote in the email.
The request was not granted Monday and it was not immediately clear whether the sergeant-at-arms planned to schedule a walk-through later this week.
Stephen Miller, the senior White House policy adviser and top speech writer, and other White House officials had been working on the remarks for weeks before Pelosi’s letter last week. One official said the administration had begun putting together a list of potential invited guests in the first lady’s box, including some “angel families” of people killed by undocumented immigrants.
CNN’s Jim Acosta contributed to this report.