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Trump is first president in history to be disinvited from delivering State of the Union



After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday effectively canceled President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address the president suggested the move was completely unprecedented.

Based on historical records, Trump is correct and we are in uncharted waters.

Trump and Pelosi have been trading blows on this issue for two weeks as part of a broader standoff between the White House and Democratic leaders on funding for a border wall that has led to the longest government shutdown in US history.

Read more: Pelosi says she won’t let Trump deliver the State of the Union on the House floor after the president said he would show up anyway

The story took yet another turn on Wednesday after Trump essentially threatened to waltz into the House chamber next Tuesday on the originally scheduled date of January 29 and deliver the address regardless of Pelosi’s authority or wishes.

In a letter to the House speaker, Trump said “it would be so very sad for our Country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location!”

In response, Pelosi sent a letter to Trump informing him the House “will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the President’s State of the Union address in the House Chamber until government has opened.”

The House Speaker added, “Again, I look forward to welcoming you to the House on a mutually agreeable date for this address when government has been opened.”

Read more: Trump signals government shutdown will ‘go on for a while’ after Pelosi cancels State of the Union address

In this sense, Pelosi did not outright cancel the address, but informed Trump it is to be postponed and potentially rescheduled pending the reopening of the federal government.

Pelosi on January 3 invited Trump to deliver the address, but later called on him to postpone it, citing security concerns linked to the shutdown. Trump responded by canceling Pelosi’s scheduled government trip to Afghanistan at the last minute, and their fight over the State of the Union has only escalated since.

Reacting to Pelosi’s letter, Trump at a meeting on Wednesday said, “We just found out that she’s canceled it, and I think that’s a great blotch on the incredible country that we all love. It’s a great, great, horrible mark.”

Trump added, “I don’t believe it’s ever happened before, and it’s always good to be part of history. But this is a very negative part of history. This is where people are afraid to open up and say what’s going on. So it’s a very, very negative part of history.”

The president, who has often struggled to accurately depict history, is right in this case: There’s no evidence an invitation for a scheduled State of the Union address has ever been rescinded, according to records from the office of the House historian.

Read more: A big portion of Trump’s base is breaking from him and would want to end the shutdown without a border wall, new poll shows

There have been cases in the past in which presidents have sought to deliver speeches to Congress that were not State of the Union addresses in which their requests were denied. Former President Ronald Reagan, for example, in 1986 was denied a request to address the House to make an appeal for aid to the contras rebel group in Nicaragua. At the time, House Speaker Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. rejected Reagan’s ask as an “unorthodox procedure.”

Relatedly, Reagan also in 1986 postponed his State of the Union address following the tragic explosion of the Challenger space shuttle.

Read more: The complete history of the US State of the Union address

If Trump delivered the State of the Union address on January 29 and the shutdown was ongoing, he also would make history in that context.

A state of the union address has not coincided with a full or partial government shutdown since the start of the modern budget process in fiscal year 1977, based on a report from the Congressional Research Service and records from the House historian.

It’s not clear what Trump will do moving forward and during a Wednesday afternoon meeting said he was considering an “alternative” and that he’d provide more details later on.

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