WASHINGTON – In a new television interview, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she had not planned to tear up her copy of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech until she read it, saw it was “terrible,” and wanted to “get attention” to its “objectionable” parts.
Speaking with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an excerpted portion of an interview set to air on Monday, Pelosi defended herself amid heavy criticism from Republicans for tearing up her copy of the speech after Trump finished his remarks on Feb. 4.
“I had no intention of doing that when we went to the State of the Union,” Pelosi said.
After reading through about a third of the speech, she said she thought, “this is terrible,” and “realized that almost every page had something in it that was objectionable.”
Pelosi said she was disappointed with the speech’s failure to mention any of the legislation House Democrats had passed, and “we had little press on it, and it seems that if you want to get press, you have to get attention, so I thought, well, let’s get attention on the fact that what he said here today was not true.”
Pelosi noted she was “departing” from her usual policy of not criticizing the president while overseas, as the CNN interview was conducted at the Munich Security Forum.
“I’m not talking about him personally. I’m just talking about his State of the Union address,” she said.
Pelosi’s act of protest was met with fury by Republicans, who denounced her actions as offensive to soldiers mentioned during the speech, as well as a breach of decorum towards the president. House Republicans introduced a measure to condemn her remarks, but the House voted to set the measure aside on a party-line vote on Feb. 6.
On Feb. 7, while leaving the White House, Trump suggested her tearing up the speech was “illegal” and that “she broke the law,” although he did not cite a specific law. Multiple legal experts told USA TODAY laws cited by several of Trump’s allies likely did not apply to her actions.
Kel McClanahan, an attorney specializing in national security law and information and privacy law, told USA TODAY the idea that the law was broken “needs to die.”
The law applies to “files lodged or officially filed with the government, agency, or court,” explained McClanahan, the executive director of public interest law firm National Security Counselors. Depriving the government of the use of the file would be illegal, he said, but destroying a copy would not be.