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 TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE on Tuesday night as the president made his case for reelection during the annual State of the Union address.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiClub for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Governors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight 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 HollenDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Democratic senators offer bill to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers 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 TlaibBiden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks GOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' MORE (D-Mich.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarMeet the three Democrats who could lead foreign affairs in the House Biden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far GOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' MORE (D-Minn.) and Bill PascrellWilliam (Bill) James PascrellPress: Trump's biggest fear is — lock him up Biden faces politically thorny decision on Trump prosecutions IRS races to get remaining stimulus checks to low-income households 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) RyanHouse Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Now's the time to make 'Social Emotional Learning' a national priority Mourners gather outside Supreme Court after passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg 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 SchiffOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Trump pardons Flynn | Lawmakers lash out at decision | Pentagon nixes Thanksgiving dining hall meals due to COVID-19 Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn Trump pardons Michael Flynn 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 NadlerTop Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn Democrats accuse GSA of undermining national security by not certifying Biden win 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 MulvaneyMick MulvaneyMick Mulvaney 'concerned' by Giuliani role in Trump election case On The Money: Senate releases spending bills, setting up talks for December deal | McConnell pushing for 'highly targeted' COVID deal | CFPB vet who battled Trump will lead Biden plans to overhaul agency Consumer bureau vet who battled Trump will lead Biden plans to overhaul agency MORE, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBiden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden faces challenges, opportunities in Middle East O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' 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 McConnellMcConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge Biden and reproductive health rights Biden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls 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 PhillipsChamber-endorsed Dems struggle on election night If we want change, young people have to do more than protest Pelosi and Trump go a full year without speaking MORE (D-Minn.), Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Democrat Gottheimer wins reelection in New Jersey Cook Political Report shifts 8 more House races toward Democrats MORE (D-N.J.), Tom ReedTom ReedDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Bipartisan lawmakers call for expedited diabetes research The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Dems push McConnell on COVID-19 relief; Grassley contracts COVID-19 MORE (R-N.Y.) and Paul MitchellPaul MitchellHere are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year House GOP lawmaker: Biden should be recognized as president-elect Most Republicans avoid challenging Trump on election 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-CortezClub for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Trump will soon be out of office — but polarization isn't going anywhere Trump tweets Thanksgiving criticism of NFL QBs for kneeling MORE (N.Y.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyGOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' Pelosi faces caucus divisions in Biden era Record number of Black women elected to Congress in 2020 MORE (Mass.) and Frederica WilsonFrederica Patricia WilsonFive House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet Lobbying world Harris calls it 'outrageous' Trump downplayed coronavirus 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 Democrats subpoena private prison operator in forced hysterectomy case Overnight Health Care: Biden team to begin getting COVID briefings | Fauci says he would 'absolutely' serve on Biden's COVID task force | Major glove factories close after thousands test positive for COVID-19 House Oversight panel asks Purdue Pharma's Sackler family to testify over opioid crisis MORE (D-N.Y.) ripped the speech as “a lot of reality TV," while House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Hoyer on Trump election challenges: 'I think this borders on treason' Capitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview 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.