Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Defense: GAO finds administration broke law by withholding Ukraine aid | Senate opens Trump trial | Pentagon to resume training Saudi students soon Hillicon Valley: FBI to now notify state officials of cyber breaches | Pelosi rips 'shameful' Facebook | 5G group beefs up lobby team | Spotify unveils playlists for pets Hill.TV's Saagar Enjeti on impeachment: 'CNN can see through this nonsense' MORE (D-Calif.) received a standing ovation at a Trump-less Kennedy Center Honors late Sunday, which largely stayed away from political talk but had moments that alluded to the tense partisan climate around the country.

The ceremony in Washington celebrated five honorees for their lifetime artistic achievements, including actress Sally Field, the children’s TV show “Sesame Street,” singer Linda Ronstadt, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and the band Earth, Wind & Fire.

While President TrumpDonald John TrumpLev Parnas implicates Rick Perry, says Giuliani had him pressure Ukraine to announce Biden probe Saudi Arabia paid 0 million for cost of US troops in area Parnas claims ex-Trump attorney visited him in jail, asked him to sacrifice himself for president MORE was noticeably absent for the third year in a row from the star-studded gala — which is traditionally attended by the commander in chief — Kennedy Center Board Chairman David Rubenstein said in remarks to the crowd that a record number of lawmakers and government officials were at the 42nd annual soiree.


“We have more leaders of our government than I’ve ever seen at a Kennedy Center Honors,” Rubenstein said.

After a restrained round of applause from the audience for an array of Trump administration Cabinet members, including Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Senate approves Trump trade deal with Canada, Mexico | Senate Dems launch probe into Trump tax law regulations | Trump announces Fed nominees Senate Democrats launch investigation into Trump tax law regulations Treasury watchdog to investigate Trump opportunity zone program MORE, Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossTrump scheduled to attend Davos amid impeachment trial Let's remember the real gifts the president has given America Welcome to third-world democracy and impeachment MORE, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosMueller investigation witness pleads guilty to child sex crime charges Proposed changes to Title IX will not solve the problem of sexual assaults on college campuses US officials say Erik Prince may have violated Venezuela sanctions: report MORE, among others, Rubenstein said, “We have over 40 members of Congress here tonight.”

“I can’t mention you all, but let me just mention the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi,” said Rubenstein.

Suddenly, the audience rose to their feet with zealous cheers and applause.

Saying he was going to next mention “the most senior member of the United States Senate,” Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate opens Trump impeachment trial Overnight Defense: Foreign policy takes center stage at Democratic debate | House delivers impeachment articles to Senate | Dems vow to force new vote on Trump's border wall Democrats vow to force third vote on Trump's border wall emergency declaration MORE, Rubenstein quipped that the Vermont Democrat might not get the same enthusiastic reception as Pelosi.


At the top of the show — which will air Dec. 15 on CBS — host LL Cool J shared a message, saying the 2019 honorees use their art “to remind us that as a nation we need to stick together.”

It was a similar call for unity that the “Mama Said Knock You Out” rapper had told ITK on the red carpet ahead of the black-tie event.

“One hundred, 200, 300 years from now, we want our future generations to actually have a country,” the actor, a 2017 Honors recipient, said of the current political climate. “So while we disagree, we have to disagree in a way that’s going to set us up to have a future.”

“I get all of the strife and the tension,” the performer continued. “But at the same time, we got to think about the big picture. If I go in your house right now, and me and a guy I know, we get into a huge fight and a big rumble, we’re going to tear all the furniture in your house.”

“The coffee table’s going to be banged over, couches going to be turned over, tables going to be turned over because we didn’t resolve our differences properly. And look what it does to the house. So a house soon divided will fall, right?”


When a reporter noted Trump’s absence to “Lincoln” actress Field — who in 2016 said she didn’t understand why people had voted for the New York developer-turned-politician — she replied she “wouldn’t be” at the gala if he had attended.

“I’m very closely watching everything,” Field told ITK of the 2020 field of White House contenders. “Like many people, I haven’t landed yet. But I’m applauding almost everyone.”

Asked about Trump’s chances of winning reelection next year, the Academy Award winner responded, “I couldn’t possibly know. All I know is I’m going to be one of the people working as hard as I can do — as we all should be, whatever your beliefs are — working as hard as you can to get people to the polls, to make sure voting is fair, to fight for the things you believe in.”

Buzz about 2020 took a lighter — and tastier — turn as Cookie Monster made his way down the press line ahead of the Honors ceremony.

What would the chocolate chip–loving “Sesame Street” star’s platform be if he were to make a White House bid?

“Me have no desire to run for president. That not in me game plan at all,” Cookie Monster stated matter-of-factly.

While much of Washington is focused on the impeachment proceedings in the House against Trump, Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulPaul predicts no Republicans will vote to convict Trump Graham on impeachment trial: 'End this crap as quickly as possible' Ocasio-Cortez accuses Rand Paul of taking climate change comments out of context, compares GOP agenda to 'Spaceballs' plot MORE (R-Ky.) said there was one personality in town who was actively avoiding that and other potentially thorny subjects: Big Bird.

“I think he doesn’t like politics that much, so we’re going to try to keep that [conversation] away from impeachment,” Paul said. “Don’t talk about turkey or Thanksgiving too much, he’s sensitive about being cooked, that kind of thing.”

Also eyed at the annual gala: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo under pressure over threats to Yovanovitch Regardless of how the Iraqis feel, the US should leave Democrats clash at debate over keeping US troops in Mideast MORE and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who were seated next to each other, standing up and clapping to the beat while Ne-Yo performed “Sing a Song” to honor Earth, Wind & Fire; Mnuchin dancing along to the Jonas Brothers’ version of “Boogie Wonderland” while Pelosi stayed seated; Rep. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellMaking waves to protect America's waters Trump suggests LBJ is in hell: 'He's probably looking down — or looking up' 10 controversies that rocked the Trump White House in 2019 MORE (D-Mich.); CBS’s Norah O’Donnell and Margaret Brennan; Fox News’s Bret Baier; Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDem senators say Iran threat to embassies not mentioned in intelligence briefing Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers Democrats 'utterly unpersuaded' by evidence behind Soleimani strike MORE (D-N.J.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Health Care: Progressives raise red flags over health insurer donations | Republican FTC commish backs Medicare negotiating drug prices | Trump moves to protect money for religious groups Senate Democrats launch investigation into Trump tax law regulations Senate approves Trump trade deal with Canada, Mexico MORE (D-Ore.); Metallica’s Lars Ulrich on-hand to deliver remarks about Tilson Thomas; Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoHillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Facebook deepfake ban falls short | House passes bills to win 5G race | Feds sound alarm on cyberthreat from Iran | Ivanka Trump appearance at tech show sparks backlash Trump administration unveils latest guidelines for autonomous vehicle makers Ivanka Trump's talk at tech conference ignites backlash MORE; Garth Brooks cheering on his wife, Tricia Yearwood, as she belted out “You’re no Good” for Ronstadt’s Honors segment; Tom Hanks yukking it up with Big Bird for a scripted segment for the show in which the giant canary was looking for his seating partner he thought was named “Thanks,” rather than “T. Hanks”; Steven Spielberg; Carrie Underwood; John Legend; magician David Copperfield; Broadway star Audra McDonald; Pierce Brosnan; Lucy Liu; Joseph Gordon-Levitt; country singer Thomas Rhett; Cedric the Entertainer; Don Henley; and Emmylou Harris.