WASHINGTON — From start to finish, President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech was marked by partisan tension that spilled out in the exchange between the leaders of both parties: Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
He refused to shake her hand after she introduced him. She tore his speech up and tossed it aside as soon he was done.
Even before the President uttered the first word of his State of the Union address, the political and personal friction between the president and the House Speaker, who has been leading his impeachment, was palpable.
Pelosi omitted the customary language about it being an honor and a privilege to introduce the president. Trump then handed the traditional copies of his speech to Vice President Mike Pence and to Pelosi, but when she reached out to shake his hand, he turned his back on her.
The awkward exchange continued the drama from last year’s address, when Pelosi clapped back at the president in a moment that went viral and Trump barely acknowledged her even though she introduced him and was seated behind him during his speech.
This year’s exchange marked the first time they’ve met since Pelosi stood up and walked out of an Oct. 16 meeting on Syria in the White House.
When Trump took the dais Tuesday, the Republican side of the House chamber erupted with chants of “Four more years,” an unusually partisan display during a State of the Union address.
Pelosi was clad in a white pantsuit again this year, as were a number of female lawmakers who sat in the gallery, a tribute to the 100th anniversary of the suffragette movement that gave women the right to vote.
Here’s a closer look at the moment:
The tension between the two rivals – and the two parties – lasted much of the night.
Most of the time, as GOP lawmakers stood up and lustily cheered the president’s words as Democrats sat quietly, shaking their heads.
Pelosi, sitting behind the president in her customary spot behind the dais, wryly smiled when Trump talked about protecting pre-existing medical conditions first guaranteed by President Obama’s Affordable Care Act that Republicans, including Trump, have tried to dismantle for years.
She shook her head when Trump took aim at California – her home state – for being a “very terrible sanctuary” for undocumented immigrants who commit crimes, and mouthed the words “not true” during other portions of his speech.
There were some rare moments when the Speaker applauded the president.
She stood up and clapped when Trump spoke of the need to depose Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and introduced opposition leader Juan Guaido, who stood in the gallery in the First Lady’s box. Pelosi also stood and clapped when Trump spoke of spending on infrastructure, one of the few goals both parties agree on.
Although the topic of impeachment was not mentioned, Trump could not have missed the House lawmakers, or managers, who prosecuted the case. All but one of whom were seated in the front row, just feet from the president they had impeached.
Trump was in a sour mood at last year’s State of the Union, having just caved on ending a 35-day government shutdown because of his insistence on border wall funding, and openly grousing about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference of the 2016 elections.
On Tuesday, the president had plenty to crow about: the Senate is about to acquit him on impeachment charges, his polls numbers are up, the strength of the economy was punctuated by Tuesday’s 408-point surge in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and the glitches surrounding Monday’s Iowa Democrat Caucus made a bad night for his opponents.
Despite the shadow of impeachment, some lawmakers put on a show of bipartisanship and fence-mending.
About two dozen House members from both sides of the aisle wore purple to promote unity during the president’s address.
The color – a mix of red and blue – is one of several being worn by lawmakers sitting in the audience as Trump addresses the nation one day before the Senate will render a verdict in his impeachment trial, an issue that has further divided Congress and the nation.