Donald Trump delivered an astonishing snub to Nancy Pelosi as he started his State of the Union speech Tuesday, ignoring her as she offered him a handshake – and set the tone for a full-throated condemnation of his political enemies and his presidential predecessors in front of a divided Congress.
He simply turned away as the Speaker took her copy of his speech, then stood in front of a chamber which echoed with cries of ‘four more years’ from Republicans – and where Democrats sat stone-faced for the beginning of his speech.
Pelosi was visibly taken aback after Trump turned away from her offer.
But she did not give Trump the typical introduction a speaker gives the president. Usually speakers say something along the lines of: ‘Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and distinct honor of presenting to you the President of the United States.’
Pelosi simply told the House Tuesday night: ‘Members of Congress, the president of the United States.’
Trump handed Pelosi a copy of his speech when he reached the speaker’s dais – the same place she presided over his impeachment vote two months ago – but then turned to the lawmakers waiting to hear his address.
Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier tweeted her outrage: ‘The President of the United States just refused to shake @SpeakerPelosi’s hand at the opening of #SOTUnull. Once again he has shown his disdain for women, especially powerful women’.
And that moment set the tone for the rest of the night. Pelosi, at times, was seen biting her lip or holding up a page of the president’s remarks close in front of her face and staring at it intently as the president launched zingers at his political enemies through bragging about policy accomplishments or attacking what the Democratic opposition wanted to do.
And she shook her head when Trump claimed he saved the pre-existing condition provision of Obamacare, a law Pelosi fought to get passed and the president tried to dismantle.
Donald Trump delivered an astonishing snub to Nancy Pelosi as he started his State of the Union speech Tuesday, ignoring her as she offered him a handshake
He simply turned away as the Speaker took her copy of his speech, setting the tone for an unrepentant speech met with cries of ‘four more years’ from Republicans
Donald Trump started setting out his case for re-election in November Tuesday night, using the pomp and ceremony of his State of the Union address to boast he has created a ‘Great American Comeback’
Trump started setting out his case for re-election in November Tuesday night, using the pomp and ceremony of his State of the Union address to boast he has created a ‘Great American Comeback’ and ignore the Democrats’ impeachment then scorn their policies as ‘socialism’
‘I’ve also made an ironclad pledge to American families we will also protect patients with pre-existing conditions,’ the president said.
Trump also vowed to protect two entitlements that are the benchmarks of Democratic values: Medicare and Social Security.
‘We will always protect your Medicare, and we will always protect your social security. Always,’ he said.
He also got in a snub at the progressive call for universal healthcare, known as Medicare for All. It’s not only a hallmark for liberal members of Congress, it’s being touted on the campaign trail by Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
‘Many experts believe that transparency which will go into full effect at the beginning of next year will be even bigger than health care reform. It will save families massive amounts of money for substantially better care, but as we work to improve Americans’ health care, there are those who want to take away your health care, take away your doctor, and abolish private insurance entirely. 132 lawmakers in this room have endorsed legislation to impose a socialist takeover of our health care system. Wiping out the private health insurance plans of 180 million very happy Americans. To those watching at home tonight, I want you to know, we will never let socialism destroy American health care,’ Trump said.
He also attacked Democrats – and Pelosi’s home state of California – for their stance on immigration, another topic he uses frequently on the campaign trail to rile up his supporters.
‘Over 130 legislators in this chamber have endorsed legislation that would bankrupt our nation by providing free taxpayer-funded health care to millions of illegal aliens, forcing taxpayers to subsidize free care for anyone in the world who unlawfully crosses our borders. These proposals would raid the Medicare benefits of our seniors and that our seniors depend on, while acting as a powerful lure for illegal immigration. That is what is happening in California and other states. Their systems are totally out of control. Costing taxpayers vast and unaffordable amounts of money,’ Trump said.
He also bragged about his border wall, which Democrats have refused to fully fund.
‘This will be a tremendous boon to our already strongly guarded southern border. Where as we speak a long, tall, and very powerful wall is being built. We have now completed over 100 miles and have over 500 miles fully completed in a very short period of time. Early next year, we will have substantially more than 500 miles completed,’ he said.
The chamber was notably quiet during several portions of his remarks on health care and immigration. Many Republicans wish to reform Medicare and Social Security. Plus the political attacks on the president’s rivals were an usual addition to the State of the Union address, which usually focuses on the president’s vision for American and his goals for the coming year.
At one point, Pelosi put down the text of the speech and simply shook her head.
Some of her Democratic lawmakers fought back against the president, standing during his healthcare remarks to shout ‘H.R. 3, H.R. 3.’
That bill is the legislation that would lower prescription drug bill costs. It passed the House but died in the Republican-controlled Senate. Pelosi named it after the late Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings, her close friend who championed the measure.
First Lady Melania Trump, dressed in a black Dolce & Gabbana suit, was greeted upon her arrival for her husband’s State of the Union address
Melania, dressed in an all-black ensemble, took her seat in the Chamber prior to Trump’s arrival
Ivanka Trump, her husband Jared Kushner, Eric Trump’s wife Lara and Tiffany Trump were spotted taking their seats inside ahead of the address
Trump’s children and spouses Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Lara Trump, Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Tiffany Trump listen as he delivers his address. Eric and Don Jr. opted to sit on the stairs instead of in seats
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner took their seats beside each other in the House Chamber
At one point, Ivanka was spotted speaking to radio personality Rush Limbaugh who arrived in a wheelchair a day after announcing he was battling lung cancer
In one of the more unusual moments of the night, Trump awarded conservative talk radio show host Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Limbaugh announced earlier this week he had advanced lung cancer. He was seen being brought into the Capitol in a wheelchair Tuesday evening. Trump, in his remarks, praised Limbaugh’s career and his reputation as a fighter.
‘Almost every American family knows the pain when a loved one is diagnosed with a serious illness. Here tonight is a special man. Beloved by millions of Americans who just received a stage 4 advanced cancer diagnosis. This is not good news, but what is good news is that he is the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet. Rush Limbaugh. Thank you for your decades of tireless devotion to our country,’ he said.
Then he added his surprise for the host, who was visibly shocked at what Trump said: ‘Rush, in recognition of all that you have done for our nation, the millions of people a day that you speak to and you inspire and all of the incredible work that you have done for charity, I am proud to announce tonight that you will be receiving our country’s highest civilian honor. The presidential medal of freedom.’
The president asked first lady Melania Trump to do the honors. Limbaugh was seated next to the first lady in her box above the chamber.
Melania rose to put the gold medal – on a bright blue ribbon – around Limbaugh’s next, pausing to straighten so it laid properly against his suit.
Trump also introduced one of his guests: Juan Guaidó is the Interim President of Venezuela and leader of the democratically elected Venezuelan National Assembly.
One of the president’s favorite lines on the campaign trail is to promise his supporters he won’t let Democrats turn the United States into a socialist country like Venezuela.
‘Thank you, Mr. President. Great honor. Thank you very much. Please take this message back that all Americans are united with the Venezuelan people in their righteous struggle for freedom,’ he told Guaido.
That moment was one of rare bipartisanship when even Pelosi joined in the applause.
In a sign of the increasing tension between the speaker and the president, Pelosi did not stand or applaud when Trump praised Melania Trump’s Be Best campaign. First ladies usually warrant bipartisan support and praise.
‘Every young person should have a safe and secure environment in which to learn and to grow. For this reason, our magnificent first lady has launched the “Be best” initiative to advance a safe, healthy, supportive, and drug-free life for the next generation. Online, in school, and in our communities. Thank you, Melania, for your extraordinary love and profound care for American’s children. Thank you very much,’ he told his wife.
The president at times seemed to double as a game show host, giving away gifts.
He gave a scholarship to Janiyah Davis, a fourth grader from Philadelphia, to attend any school of his choosing.
He praised 13-year-old, Ian, he’s an eighth grader from Arizona, who wants to go to space, when he touted his new space force.
Trump acknowledged the audience before delivering his address in front of a crowded chamber at the Capitol
Mike Pence stood beside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi before taking their seats ahead of President Trump’s arrival
Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are pictured arriving for the State of the Union address
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. (left), Rep. Rashida Tlaib., D-Mich. (standing right) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (center) laughed with each other ahead of the address
A group of Congresswomen wearing white to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote pose together as they await Trump’s arrival
The U.S. Supreme Court justices were applauded as they arrived for the State of the Union address. The Supreme Court was noticeably underrepresented at the address, with only four Justices attending: Chief Justice John Roberts, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh – all Republican-nominated – and Elena Kagan.
Trump’s remarks came just hours after a new poll revealed he has reached record high approval ratings.
A Gallup poll shows Trump with 49 per cent approval, the highest this particular survey has recorded since the start of his presidency – and also revealed his approval is at 94 per cent among Republicans, which is a 6 per cent increase from a poll taken in early January.
The new high came as 46 per cent of Americans said in the same survey, taken January 16-29, that they are in favor of the Senate voting to convict and remove Trump from office.
Trump, however, ignored the elephant in the room in his remarks.
He declared that the state of the union is strong even as the two political parties remain bitterly divided over impeachment – and a vote on whether to acquit or convict the president will take place in the Senate the day after the annual address.
But instead of focusing on impeachment – which has monopolized Washington’s attention since the investigation was launched in September – the president spent his remarks focusing on the ‘wins’ of his administration while staring down those who want to see him removed from office.
‘I’ve read through the speech and I haven’t seen the word impeachment,’ White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said Tuesday.
He added while speaking to reporters at the White House hours ahead of the address: ‘He’s in a great mood, he’s ready to talk to the American people.’
Trump touted his high approval on Tuesday, but appeared to be referencing a different poll.
‘My Approval Rating in the Republican Party = 95%, a record! Big Iowa win. Approval Rating overall = 53%, a new high,’ he boasted in a tweet. ‘With our great Economy and other major successes, would be 20 points higher without the phony Witch Hunts and Hoaxes???’
His previous highest approval rating in the Gallup polling was 46 per cent toward the start of the summer.
A senior administration official revealed ahead of the address during a background briefing Friday that the theme of the State of the Union is ‘The Great American Comeback.’
Trump focused much of his speech on the economy, including the so-called ‘blue-collar boom,’ supporting working families through initiatives like lowering healthcare costs and he brought back one of his 2016 greatest hits: immigration.
He said his administration will continue to reform the immigration system and he more broadly touched on protecting U.S. national security.
The president touted taking out terrorist leaders, including U.S. forces killing ISIL commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October and Iranian General Qassem Soleimani at the beginning of January.
The speech comes on the same day Gallup released a poll where Trump reached his highest approval rating of his presidency: 49 per cent. The president’s last highest approval rating through Gallup with 46 per cent over the summer
‘I’ve read through the speech and I haven’t seen the word impeachment,’ White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley told reporters Tuesday
The speech will come as the nation and parties remain bitterly divided over impeachment. Pictured are the seven House impeachment managers prosecuting him in the Senate trial (from left to right: Hakeem Jeffries, Jerry Nadler, Val Demings, Adam Schiff, Sylvia Garcia, Zoe Lofgren, Jason Crow)
A senior official revealed Trump will focus largely on the booming economy and job growth – a winning issue according to a new poll that shows the majority of voters feel the economy is the biggest issue going into 2020
But keeping a large focus of the speech on the economy could prove to be a winning point for Trump.
A new Morning Consult poll released Tuesday morning shows that the Majority of Americans say the economy is their top issue going into the 2020 election.
In the open-response question to 4,400 Americans, 28 per cent said economic issues are the biggest contributing factor to how they will vote at the ballot box in November.
Eighteen per cent of respondents said their biggest issue in the elections was national security, 15 per cent said health care issues, 10 per cent said senior issues and 9 per cent said partisanship.
Out of the 20 different responses, the rest all had 5 per cent or less – including environment, immigration, education and guns.
Five per cent of respondents said ‘nothing’ is their main focus and 2 per cent said ‘everything.’
‘This will be the first time the President has done one of these while there are people in the Chamber who are wanting to replace him as President,’ another reporter pushed. ‘How does the President feel about that? Will he mention any of those people or allude to them in any way?’
‘I won’t preview if he’s going to call anybody out because I – but I think the President will be entirely comfortable with that,’ the official claimed. ‘I think – yeah, I’ll just – I’ll just say that.’
While the president delivers a hopeful message that focuses on the successes of his administration, about half of the lawmakers listening to his remarks have made it clear they want to kick him from office through impeachment.
On Monday the prosecution and defense presented closing arguments on the Senate floor and on Tuesday senators were given the chance to make remarks in the trial – and these two days followed two weeks of trial in the Senate with a proposal rules portion, opening arguments, senators’ question-and-answer sessions and closing arguments.
Wednesday the Republican-majority chamber will vote on the president’s fate – which almost certainly will be acquittal.
Although Trump could use the speech to insist he won when the Senate voted against calling new witnesses and prolonging the trial, by the vote occuring a day after the address, he won’t be able to use the national stage in front of Congress to take a victory lap.
Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Bernie Sanders is skipping out on the State of the Union address, and will instead on Tuesday hold a campaign rally in New Hampshire – the first primary state. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is campaigning for Bernie Sanders in the 2020 primary, is boycotting the address
The progressive congresswoman claimed that attending would further ‘normalize’ his actions
Ayanna Pressley, a member of the so-called ‘squad’ alongside Ocasio-Cortez, will also not attend the address
Maxine Waters, 81, is a frequent target of the president’s ire – and she followed suit and joined others in boycotting the address
Mike Huckabee, a Trump defender and father of his former press secretary, made fun of those skipping the remarks – hitting at the fiasco over the still-pending Iowa caucus resorts
The president and first lady Melania Trump will also host a few guests, which is commonplace for the president and members of Congress to do during the State of the Union address.
One guest will be Afghanistan Army veteran Tony Rankins, a recovering drug user who is now a construction worker in a so-called ‘opportunity zone’ in Cincinnati, Ohio.
These zones were created by the Trump administration as part of the 2017 tax cuts and are low-income areas that receive tax advantages to drum up more investment.
The Trump administration has also touted the strides it has made toward decreasing overdose deaths – and last week White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway delivered a rare press briefing where she announced overdose deaths in 2019 decreased for the first time in decades.
Another one of Trump’s guests Tuesday night is Border Patrol Deputy Chief Raul Ortiz.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who was forced to stay back in Washington, D.C. during the impeachment trial instead of continuing on the campaign trail, decided to hold a rally in New Hampshire Tuesday night rather than attending the State of the Union address.
Sanders isn’t the only one skipping out on speech, which is historically attended by all federal lawmakers.
One of his highest profile surrogates, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, revealed she will be boycotting the address this year – claiming attending would ‘normalize’ the actions of what she calls an illegitimate president.
‘After much deliberation, I have decided that I will not use my presence at a state ceremony to normalize Trump’s lawless conduct & subversion of the Constitution,’ the progressive New York congresswoman tweeted.
‘None of this is normal, and I will not legitimize it,’ the 30-uear-old lawmaker asserted. ‘Consequently, I will not be attending the State of the Union.’
She was also joined by fellow ‘squad’ member Ayanna Pressley.
‘The State of the Union is hurting because of the occupant of the White House, who consistently demonstrates contempt for the American people, contempt for Congress & contempt for our constitution. I cannot in good conscience attend tonight’s sham #SOTU’ the Massachusetts representative tweeted.
Pressley and Ocasio-Cortez are part of a quartet of congresswomen who make up the so-called ‘squad’ – which also includes Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.
Although Omar and Tlaib are attending the address, Ocasio-Cortez made sure she clarified the decision to show up was ‘personal.’
‘This is a deeply personal decision for each member to make, and a choice I did not take lightly,’ she said in a tweet attached to her original announcement.
Several other Democrats also announced Monday and Tuesday they will be boycotting Trump’s third State of the Union address.
Maxine Waters, who often publicly spars with Trump, tweeted her opposition to the speech shortly after Ocasio-Cortez.
‘To think that I would attend the #SOTU to hear the message of an IMPEACHED president is a thought that in no way would be consistent w/ my fight and struggle against this dishonorable president. I will certainly NOT be there!’ the 81-year-old California congresswoman tweeted.
There are several Democrats who announced they will be boycotting the remarks from the president.
Steve Cohen, a Democratic representative from Tennessee, said he will participate in the boycott.
‘I have not attended prior Trump State of the Union addresses, and won’t attended Tuesday night’s, because I don’t believe the President has the character or veracity necessary to address Congress from that august podium and is not worthy of the dignity and respect accorded to his predecessors,’ Cohen said in a statement released Monday.
Earl Blumenauer, who represents Oregon in the House, also announced Monday night that he plans to boycott Trump’s address.
‘I have chosen not to dignify Trump’s parade of lies about health care, his persistent exaggeration, and his personal attacks with my attendance,’ he said.
Al Green, who represents Louisiana, won’t be attending either.
THE DEMOCRATS WHO ARE BOYCOTTING DONALD TRUMP’S STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS
Earl Blumenauer of Oregon
Steve Cohen of Tennessee
Al Green of Louisiana
Hank Johnson of Georgia
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York
Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts
Maxine Waters of California
Frederica Wilson of Florida
‘Because of an impeached, reckless, ruthless, lawless, shameless, corrupt, & unapologetically bigoted president – who is still engaging in a coverup, the state of the House, the state of the Senate, and the #StateOfTheUnion are divided. I will NOT attend #SOTU2020,’ Green tweeted Tuesday morning.
This is the third year in a row that Cohen, Blumenauer and Green skipped Trump’s address.
Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor, staunch Trump defender and the father of the president’s former press secretary, made fun of the Democratic Party and those planning to skip out on the State of the Union.
‘House Dems will boycott @realDonaldTrump SOTU speech but will watch on their app built by Iowa Dems. They expect to see it by Friday afternoon,’ Huckabee tweeted Tuesday morning.
He is referencing the fiasco in the Iowa caucus Monday night, where the state’s Democratic Party built an app for the event that ended up malfunctioning.
Due to the ‘inconsistencies’ with the app, no winner was announced Monday and Democratic candidates had to leave Iowa without knowing the results. Some results in certain precincts began reporting around 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, and they had Sanders leading the field with former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg not far behind.
On the other hand, Trump – who is facing no real competition in the primary – won the Republican Iowa caucus with more than 97 per cent.
Dozens of female Democratic lawmakers who attended the address, carried on the theme from last year in wearing all white.
The attire choice was a nod to standing in solidarity with the women’s suffragette movement of the early 20th century.