Democrats tear into Trump's speech: It was a 'MAGA rally'

Democrats were exasperated over what they called a raucous campaign-style speech from President TrumpDonald John TrumpFed saw risks to US economy fading before coronavirus spread quickened Pro-Trump super PAC hits Biden with new Spanish-language ad in Nevada Britain announces immigration policy barring unskilled migrants MORE on Tuesday night as the president made his case for reelection during the annual State of the Union address.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDon't let 'welfare for all' advocates derail administration's food stamp program reforms Hillicon Valley: Officials worry about Nevada caucus technology after Iowa | Pelosi joins pressure campaign on Huawei | Workers at Kickstarter vote to unionize | Bezos launches B climate initiative Pelosi joins pressure campaign on Huawei MORE (D-Calif.) appeared disgusted during much of Trump’s third State of the Union address. By the end of it, she ripped up his speech and set it aside while her political nemesis was still standing on the House dais.

“I tore it up,” Pelosi replied when asked by reporters what she thought of the speech.


Pelosi added that it was "the courteous thing to do given the alternatives."

In many ways, Trump’s 80-minute speech represented a starting gun for his reelection campaign. It was short on bipartisan policy proposals and included plenty of red meat for his base that he will need to turn out at the polls in order to propel him to a second term in November.

Trump took credit for the economic recovery and contended he had reversed “American decline” — a line Democrats saw as a not-so-veiled shot at President Obama’s eight years of growth. He also railed against "sanctuary cities" for undocumented immigrants and bragged that he was building hundred of miles of new wall along the Mexico border.

And Trump used his national platform to present the Presidential Medal of Freedom to a man loathed by the left: conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who just announced he has lung cancer.

“If I wanted to attend a MAGA rally, I would attend a MAGA rally,” fumed Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenSenate Dems blast Barr for 'clear violation' of duty in Stone case, urge him to resign Senate Democrats introduce legislation to change impeachment trial rules Warren asks for probe of whether Trump violated law by delaying Puerto Rico funds MORE (D-Md.), a former House member and close Pelosi ally. “The president never misses an opportunity to further divide the country. It was a disgraceful performance."

“The only good moments were recognizing some of the great Americans in the balcony, but the president really turned this into a circus performance,” Van Hollen said. “I’ve never seen a president disgrace the House of Representatives in the chamber the way President Trump did tonight.”


The night started on a sour note. Trump appeared to snub Pelosi when she reached out to shake his hand. 

It was downhill from there.

Trump’s Republican allies in Congress cheered almost every line he delivered, kicking off the night by chanting: “Four more years! Four more years!” 

Democrats sat on their hands for most of the night, and when they couldn’t restrain themselves they groaned and yelled “no” and shook their heads. 

Several, including Reps. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibDon't let 'welfare for all' advocates derail administration's food stamp program reforms Omar endorses progressive Georgia Democrat running for House seat Will Bernie have to turn on his bros? MORE (D-Mich.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOmar endorses progressive Georgia Democrat running for House seat Tlaib says she held Omar's hand during 'triggering' moments at Trump's State of the Union speech Key House Democrat says Perez must go: 'He doesn't lead on anything' MORE (D-Minn.) and Bill PascrellWilliam (Bill) James PascrellDemocrats, GOP spar over Treasury rules on Trump tax law On The Money: Economy adds 225K jobs in January, topping expectations | Appeals court tosses Dems' lawsuit over emoluments | Democrats decide against bringing back earmarks Democrat hits Mnuchin for giving Hunter Biden docs to Republicans MORE (D-N.J.), stormed out midway through the speech in disgust.

“I just walked out of the #StateOfTheUnion. I’ve had enough. It’s like watching professional wrestling. It’s all fake,” tweeted Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanDemocrats tear into Trump's speech: It was a 'MAGA rally' Democrats walk out of Trump's address: 'It's like watching professional wrestling' Trump set to confront his impeachment foes MORE (D-Ohio), a former 2020 presidential candidate.

Tuesday's address was expected to include tense moments, with Trump entering the same House of Representatives that had impeached him for abuse of power and obstruction of justice only seven weeks earlier.

Though Trump never uttered a word about impeachment, sitting before him were all of the characters of the impeachment investigation and trial that have consumed Washington for the past four months.

Pelosi, who led the Democrats into the effort, was seated just above Trump’s left shoulder. To his side, occupying an entire row, were the seven Democratic impeachment managers, including House Intelligence Chairman Committee Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTop intelligence community lawyer leaving position Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Democrats fear rule of law crumbling under Trump MORE (D-Calif.), the lead prosecutor who had investigated the president’s Ukraine dealings for months, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerTrump adviser presses House investigators to make Bezos testify Nadler demands answers from Barr on 'new channel' for receiving Ukraine info from Giuliani Trump predicts Ocasio-Cortez will launch primary bid against Schumer MORE (D-N.Y.), who had his hand on his chin for most of the night.

All the president’s men were seated on the House floor as well: acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump declares war on hardworking Americans with new budget request Scaramucci thanks John Kelly for speaking up against Trump Trump lashes out over Kelly criticism: 'He misses the action' MORE, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo condemns China's expulsion of WSJ journalists Wall Street Journal 'deeply disappointed' by China's expulsion of journalists China expels three Wall Street Journal reporters MORE and budget chief Russell Vought — members of the administration who all played a role in the impeachment inquiry but never testified before the House or the Senate.

In the front row: Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who has had many late nights presiding over Trump’s Senate impeachment trial for the last two weeks. That trial will wrap up at 4 p.m. Wednesday when Republican senators — most of whom attended the speech — will vote to acquit Trump of both charges.

“Great job, great job,” a grinning Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKentucky state official says foreign adversaries 'routinely' scan election systems Don't let 'welfare for all' advocates derail administration's food stamp program reforms Whistleblower retaliation: Stop confusing unlawful attacks with politics MORE (R-Ky.) told Trump as he stepped down from the elevated dais after the speech.


The night showcased a few moments of bipartisanship, however. 

Democrats and Republicans in the Problem Solvers Caucus — including Reps. Dean PhillipsDean PhillipsBloomberg builds momentum on Capitol Hill with new endorsements Vulnerable Democrats fret over surging Sanders Democrats tear into Trump's speech: It was a 'MAGA rally' MORE (D-Minn.), Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerDemocrats tear into Trump's speech: It was a 'MAGA rally' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi plans to send impeachment articles next week The lawmakers who bucked their parties on the war powers resolution MORE (D-N.J.), Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedThis week: Trump's budget lands with a thud on Capitol Hill Cuccinelli: New York reintroduced 'the main problem' that allowed 9/11 New Yorkers blocked from Global Entry program over immigrant license law MORE (R-N.Y.) and Paul MitchellPaul MitchellOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — House to condemn Trump plan for Medicaid block grants | Chinese doctor who warned of coronavirus dies | CDC ships coronavirus tests GOP lawmaker shreds Democratic resolution on House floor Democrats tear into Trump's speech: It was a 'MAGA rally' MORE (R-Mich.) — all sat together and sported purple ties. And Trump got a handful of bipartisan standing ovations, including when he touted a boost to military spending. 

“To safeguard American liberty, we have invested a record-breaking $2.2 trillion in the United States military,” Trump said.

More visible than the men in purple ties were the women all decked out in white. Before the address, dozens of House Democratic women — all sporting suffragist white — packed onto a stairway in the Capitol for their annual State of the Union photo. 

Several of the Democrats, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez defends Sanders running as a Democrat: It's 'more than what you call yourself' House Oversight accuses Border Patrol of blocking investigation into secret Facebook group Company to provide free clothing to any female candidate MORE (N.Y.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyThere's no such thing as a free bus Don't let 'welfare for all' advocates derail administration's food stamp program reforms Tlaib says she held Omar's hand during 'triggering' moments at Trump's State of the Union speech MORE (Mass.) and Frederica WilsonFrederica Patricia WilsonDemocrats tear into Trump's speech: It was a 'MAGA rally' Clinton advises checking your voter registration during Trump's State of the Union Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley to boycott State of the Union MORE (Fla.), were absent this year, boycotting Trump’s speech altogether.

But Tlaib, one of two Muslim women in Congress, said she wanted to be on hand to show the diversity of today’s Democratic caucus. Tlaib is also part of “the squad,” the four progressive freshman women of color who were attacked by Trump last year.  


“For me, it really was about trying to represent my district and be seen,” Tlaib said after posing for the photo with Pelosi and other female colleagues. “I think me being in the audience says volumes, especially to a president that told me to go back where I came from. Well, I’m coming back to the United States House floor. ... This is the most diverse class I’ve ever seen.”

After Trump’s stem-winder, Democrats retreated to Statuary Hall, which was packed with TV cameras and reporters and turned into a post-speech spin room. It was there that Democrats unloaded on Trump.

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyHouse Oversight accuses Border Patrol of blocking investigation into secret Facebook group Lawmakers grill Census Bureau officials after report on cybersecurity issues Booker, Merkley propose federal facial recognition moratorium MORE (D-N.Y.) ripped the speech as “a lot of reality TV," while House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerPelosi's staff huddles with aides in both parties on 'surprise' medical billing House panel approves bill to grant DC statehood Democrats bullish on bill to create women's history museum: 'It's an election year' MORE (D-Md.) said its rally-like tone was extremely inappropriate.

"That's not what the State of the Union's supposed to be about. It's not a political rally with some of his supporters in one of these places he goes all over the country and whips up these crowds,” Hoyer lamented.

"The speech was to whip up his base, and brought up very divisive issues on which there is disagreement. So it didn't set the table for bipartisan agreement."

Mike Lillis, Cristina Marcos and Juliegrace Brufke contributed to this report, which was updated at 7:40 a.m.