Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday trashed President Trump’s raucous State of the Union address while huddling with rank-and-file Democrats, and explained why she dramatically ripped up his speech as he wrapped up his remarks.
“He shredded the truth so I shredded his speech,” Pelosi told House Democrats during a closed-door caucus meeting, according to sources in the room. Like she did the night before, she called his 90-minute address “a manifesto of mistruths."
“You are supposed to talk about the State of the Union,” Pelosi continued, “not the state of your alleged mind.”
Trump, Pelosi said, “disrespected” the House chamber and used it as a “backdrop for a reality show ... to give a speech that had no connection with reality.”
Wednesday’s private remarks marked the first time Pelosi had addressed the Tuesday night incident to House Democrats. Pelosi said she had not planned to tear up Trump’s speech, but she felt “liberated” when she did so. Her actions came after Trump, as he entered the chamber and ascended the dais, appeared to snub Pelosi by ignoring her extended hand.
“I didn’t go in there to tear up the speech, and I didn’t even care that he didn’t shake my hand. In fact, who cares?” Pelosi told her caucus, according to sources in the room. “But I’m a speed reader, so ... I went like this through the speech. So I knew that it was a pack of lies. I knew it was a pack of lies, but I thought, ‘Well, let’s see how it goes.’
“About a quarter through it I thought, ‘You know — he’s selling a bill of goods like a snake oil salesman. We cannot let this stand,’” she said. “So, somewhere along the way realizing what was coming, I started to stack my papers in a way that were tear-able.”
Democrats rallied behind Pelosi and her gesture the night before, erupting in a standing ovation in the meeting, lawmakers said.
“She ripped it from top to bottom,” said Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), speaking metaphorically of Pelosi skewering Trump’s speech.
Democrats were still fuming at Trump on Wednesday morning. They were furious not only about Trump insulting Pelosi in her own chamber, but also about his claims that he alone had fixed the economy and reversed what he called years of “American decline.”
Democrats griped that Trump had tried to erase from history eight years of economic growth under President Obama, who had inherited a financial crisis from his GOP predecessor.
Republicans directed their fury at Pelosi. Some called for her to be censured, something that would never happen since her party controls the chamber. Vice President Pence, a former House colleague who stood next to Pelosi as she tore pages of the speech into pieces, described it as “a new low."
“Speaker Pelosi had a tantrum. She disgraced herself. She dishonored the House,” Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyThe Memo: Never Trumpers sink into gloom as Gonzalez bows out Kinzinger says Trump 'winning' because many Republicans 'have remained silent' 'Justice for J6' rally puts GOP in awkward spot MORE (Wyo.) said at a GOP leadership news conference Wednesday morning. “She showed once again she is an embarrassment and she is unfit for office.”
But Democrats blamed Trump’s apparent snub at the beginning for setting the tone.
“I think the president came for a campaign rally and his actions indicated he did not want to bring the country together. He wanted to count on division in order to get reelected,” said Rep. Lloyd DoggettLloyd Alton DoggettLIVE COVERAGE: Tax hikes take center stage in Ways and Means markup American workers need us to get this pandemic under control around the world Biden attempts to turn page on Afghanistan with domestic refocus MORE (D-Texas).
The passive-aggressive exchanges between the president and Speaker have only inflamed partisan tensions on a day when the Senate — after a weeks-long impeachment trial — will vote mostly along party lines to acquit Trump.
Until Tuesday night, Trump and Pelosi had not seen each other since a contentious mid-October meeting at the White House on Syria in which the two traded insults. At that point, the House was only a few weeks into its impeachment inquiry.
The tensions have only deepened since Pelosi presided over the House votes in December to impeach Trump over his efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to open investigations into his political opponents.
In the Wednesday gathering, Pelosi also individually thanked by name the seven Democratic impeachment managers, including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOvernight Hillicon Valley — Hacking goes global Schiff calls on Amazon, Facebook to address spread of vaccine misinformation Spotlight turns to GOP's McCarthy in Jan. 6 probe MORE (D-Calif.), the lead manager. They, too, received a standing ovation.
One of those managers, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesFormer Bad Boy rapper turned politician meets with US lawmakers Watch live: House Democratic leaders hold press conference Congressional staff pay is still too low MORE (N.Y.), one of the party’s top messengers, defended the Speaker’s actions after the meeting.
“As far as I’m concerned, a shredder wasn’t available and she did what she needed to do,” Jeffries told reporters.
Updated at 11:41 a.m.