Topline: President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech was overshadowed by a series of silent snubs on both sides of the aisle, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripping up a copy of his speech and Trump refusing to shake her hand in the ultimate symbol of discord between Democrats and Republicans as the president’s impeachment trial reached its conclusion.
- In contrast to last year’s SOTU, Trump rebuffed Pelosi’s attempt to shake his hand as he handed her a hard copy of his speech then Pelosi ripped up Trump’s remarks at the end of his speech and later told reporters: “It was the courteous thing to do, considering the alternative.”
- Pelosi later tweeted a shot of her extending her hand, and wrote: “Democrats will never stop extending the hand of friendship to get the job done #ForThePeople. We will work to find common ground where we can, but will stand our ground where we cannot.”
- Trump’s 80-minute speech spanned boasts about his economic record, his administration’s healthcare plans, and the border wall. But a number of his claims proved inaccurate. Trump also did not address his impeachment trial.
- The division between Republicans and Democrats was most stark when Trump claimed: “The state of our union is stronger than ever before.” Democrats simply shook their heads.
- Trump and Pelosi weren’t the only ones to stage silent protests—a number of female democrats wore white to mark the 100th anniversary of female suffrage in the United States.
Key background: The relationship between the President and the Speaker of the House can often be tense but Pelosi and Trump’s relationship has been particularly turbulent. The veteran Democrat clashed with Trump within days of taking office in January 2019 over the government shutdown over proposed funding plans for the southern border wall and her decision to move the 2019 state of the union speech. Pelosi’s generous but performative applause for Trump during that speech showed one side of the relationship but a rancorous showdown at the White House over Syria in October marked a low point that reportedly led to a months-long pause in talks between the parties.
The two political powerhouses might not be speaking, but sparring on social media and in the press reached its peak during the start of the impeachment hearing. Pelosi’s attacks towards Trump have remained at the professional level, with the Speaker at one point telling off a reporter for suggesting that she hates Trump. But over the course of his three years in office, Trump has rarely missed a chance to mock Pelosi, often calling her “crazy Nancy.”
What to watch for: Trump’s speech on Tuesday came hours before he is expected to be acquitted by the Senate in his impeachment trial. Trump was impeached a week before Christmas, charged with obstruction of congress and abuse of power for allegedly pressuring Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, his political rival. Senate Republicans, who have control of the upper chamber, rejected the chance for key witnesses to speak last week, meaning the proceedings have wrapped up without the due process that Democrat lawmakers were hoping to see.
Further reading: The 5 Big Claims Trump Got Wrong In His SOTU (Rachel Sandler)