State of the Union: Trump Won’t Shake, Pelosi Rips Speech on the Eve of Impeachment Finale

February 5, 2020 by Dan McCue
U.S. President Donald Trump is greeted by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, center, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, right, as he arrives to deliver his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

WASHINGTON – It started with President Donald Trump refusing to shake hands with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and ended with the speaker ripping up the president’s speech in full view of  everyone in the House chamber, and thanks to television, everyone in the world.

In between, the president delivered his third State of the Union address, this one on the eve of his expected acquittal in the Republican-led Senate on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress charges stemming from his effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.

Trump entered the chamber at 9:03 p.m. and walked slowly toward the rostrum, toward a waiting Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker Pelosi. Shaking hands with fellow Republicans, he said little more than “thank you” to well wishers until he reached Chief Justice John Roberts.

With Roberts, who has presided over Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate, the president shared a few brief words, for which the chief justice appeared to be grateful.

With that, Trump stepped onto the rostrum, pausing to acknowledge the chamber’s applause before handing Pence and Pelosi copies of his remarks.

The president did so curtly, saying just a word to Pence, before turning towards the speaker. Pelosi rose and extended her hand to shake the president’s, but Trump quickly turned his back without meeting her stare.

The two had not seen each other in person since October, when Pelosi abruptly left a White House meeting after the two argued about the ongoing House investigations of the president.

As Trump turned back to the chamber and the members of the House, Senate, Supreme Court and joint chiefs of staff who had gathered to hear him, Pelosi smiled slightly and shrugged.

The speaker then dispensed with tradition and omitted the line “I have the high privilege and distinct honor of presenting …”

Instead, she offered, “Members of Congress, the president of the United States.”

The president spoke for an hour and 21 minutes. As he closed with “Our spirit is still young, the sun is still rising, God’s grace is still shining, and, my fellow Americans, the best is yet to come,” Republicans in the well and a large number of the spectators rose to applaud him.

Speaker Pelosi stood as well, and with a stern expression on her face, began to tear up her printed copy of the speech, a few pages at a time.

Afterwards, reaction to the drama that played out between the two fell along party lines, with Democrats criticizing Trump’s handshake snub, and Republicans blasting Pelosi’s ripping up the speech.

Prior to the State of the Union, Pelosi had told reporters she intended to treat the president “as a guest in our House.” Afterward, she said she tore up the speech “because it was a manifesto of mistruths.”

Reactions on the Hill to the State of the Union Address:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi

“We are always hopeful when a president makes a State of the Union address. We welcome any opportunity to extend the hand of friendship to find common ground on behalf of the American people. The issue of major concern to most Americans is health care. Tonight, House Democrats brought scores of guests to the State of the Union who have powerful health care stories, whether it is families with pre-existing conditions, families struggling to afford the prescription drugs they need, or families relying on Medicaid even though they have private insurance. We had been told the president would have a positive message on health care.”

“However, President Trump’s address tonight gave no comfort to the 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions or the families struggling to afford the prescription drugs they need.  Once again, President Trump was not truthful about his actions in court to destroy pre-existing condition protections. Once again, President Trump pulled his punch on his promise to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices, which House Democrats delivered with the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, H.R.3.”

“Next week, when the president presents his budget, the American people will see the stark reality of his agenda. A federal budget should be a statement of our national values, and the president has sadly shown that he does not value the good health of the American people.  Democrats continue to urge the president to abandon his assault on seniors and families and to join us to deliver real progress in lowering the price of prescription drugs and making the bold investments needed to rebuild America’s infrastructure in a green and modern way.

“The manifesto of mistruths presented in page after page of the address tonight should be a call to action for everyone who expects truth from the president and policies worthy of his office and the American people. The American people expect and deserve a president to have integrity and respect for the aspirations for their children.

“Americans were uplifted by the positive message and vision for progress for all communicated by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Congresswoman Veronica Escobar of Texas. In the election, Democrats ran and won on a pledge For The People: lower health care costs, bigger paychecks, clean up corruption in government. And we will continue to be relentless in our pursuit of progress for hard-working families across America, For The People.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer

“This evening, President Trump had an opportunity to show the American people and the Congress that he takes seriously the challenges we face as a nation and his responsibility as president to rally the country together to meet them. 

“Instead, he doubled-down on the rank partisanship and divisiveness that have characterized his presidency, using his address to attack those who disagree with him and to take credit for the successes of the prior Administration while misleading on his own record. 

“His divisive remarks on health care were an attempt to distract from his record of trying to take health care away from Americans with pre-existing conditions and his efforts to sabotage access to affordable health care for millions. He did not mention even once the danger posed by the climate crisis. Moreover, the president continued his hateful denigration of immigrants and rejection of America’s historic role as a land of opportunity and a beacon of hope for those yearning for freedom.

“On the economy, of paramount importance to every American, this president has failed to keep the promises he made when he ran for office to oversee growth that lifts all boats. Where he said we would see a jobs surge, we have actually had a slowing of job growth on his watch.  Where he promised that his tax cuts for the wealthy would produce 6% GDP growth and trickle down to provide $4,000 a year raises for the middle class, we have instead seen both GDP and wage growth slow over the last year. As a candidate, President Trump told the American people that he would eliminate our national debt entirely; instead, his policies in office are causing the deficit to exceed $1 trillion this year. 

“Thankfully, our people and our economy are resilient, and our nation’s forward-looking hope for a better future cannot be constrained, even with a backward-looking president in the White House.  For now, the state of our union is strong, even if the state of this presidency is one of crisis and corruption. Let us look to our strengths to see us through the year ahead, one that I hope will see us begin to turn the page from division to unity, from uncertainty to the secure knowledge that tomorrow will once again be filled with opportunity and justice for all.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy

Via Twitter: “How petty of Pelosi. Ripping up a piece of paper doesn’t change the facts that were written on it—Americans are winning, in spite of the do-nothing Democrats.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

For three years, Republicans in Congress have partnered with the President to keep America strong and safe and create record-setting prosperity for working families across the country. The results have been a truly all-American comeback. The state of our union is strong.


Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif.

“The president’s speech tonight was, once again, full of bluster, falsehoods, and a cynical distortion of American values.

“American values do not include denigrating immigrants. They do not include using lies to take away a woman’s right to choose. They do not include taking credit for the successes or hard work of others. They do not include sabre rattling. And, they do not include attempting to divide a nation to win an election.

“Rather than fighting for the middle class, the president passed a trillion-dollar tax cut that went primarily to the very rich and to corporations who used their tax cuts to make the rich even richer.

“Rather than taking bold action on climate change, essential to the prosperity of future generations, he bragged about the bold moves he’s made to make the planet dirtier and make the climate crisis even worse.

“Rather than fighting for a woman’s right to choose, he used deceptive and deeply cynical rhetoric to make it even harder for women to make the decisions they believe is right for them.

“On healthcare broadly, does anyone believe that he or the Republican Party want to protect pre-existing conditions? The boldness of this lie is breathtaking. Not only did the president and his cronies in Congress attempt over and over again to take away protections for pre-existing conditions through legislation, when they failed the president’s Department of Justice turned their attempts to take away protections for pre-existing conditions through the courts.

“Our nation deserves much better.”

Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif.

“Unfortunately, the president’s speech was heavy on rhetoric but light on substance. He spoke about lifting families up, but has worked to cut CalFresh and take away Social Security benefits from people with disabilities. He promised us better healthcare, but tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act, cut Medicaid and Medicare, and undermine pre-existing conditions protections.

“He boasted about a strong economy, but families on the Central Coast are struggling to make ends meet with stagnant wages and no help from his $1.5 trillion tax giveaway to the wealthiest Americans.

“Although I appreciated hearing about the individual stories of most of the president’s guests, I hope he hears about the story of my guest, Pablo Martinez, and understands the need for immigration reform. Pablo is a former farmworker who has lived, worked, and studied on the Central Coast for years. Unfortunately, our current immigration system does not recognize his contributions to our economy and community and has left him in the shadows. We need to pass immigration reform that protects people like Pablo who have and will continue to give back to our community and country.

“Regardless of what was said tonight by the president, we in Congress will continue to act to address the many challenges facing our nation. We have passed bipartisan legislation to help fix our broken immigration system, protect our environment, invest in infrastructure and housing, strengthen our healthcare, and lower prescription drug prices.

“As I have done my entire time in office, I will work to deliver solutions to those issues and serve my neighbors on the central coast of California and hold this administration accountable to its callous policies and corrupt practices.”

Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill.

“Tonight, President Trump spoke about a Great American comeback. But too many who wrestle with soaring drug prices, crumbling infrastructure and an uncertain economic future still feel like they are falling further behind.

“The state of our health care is anything but strong. This administration put Americans’ health security on the chopping block by threatening those with pre-existing conditions and failing for the past three years to fulfill promises to lower prescription drug prices. Americans need more than just assurances. They demand action.

“The State of the Union should be a unique opportunity to unite Americans. Tonight’s address missed the mark.   

“I continue to stand ready to work with the president on bipartisan priorities like lowering the cost of prescription drugs, rebuilding our infrastructure, investing in broadband and expanding career and technical education. Real progress will require a genuine effort at partnership.”

Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-N.Y.

“We heard from the president tonight about his priorities to improve the state of our union and now it’s time both sides drop the partisan politics and work to improve the lives of the American people. It was an honor to have President Trump sign my legislation last year to improve services for our Veterans, strengthen manufacturing in Upstate New York, and eliminate the harmful Health Insurance Tax that would have raised premiums on the middle class and older Americans. I look forward to building on that success and working with anyone, Democrat or Republican, to rebuild our infrastructure, lower prescription drug costs, and protect Medicare and Social Security.”

Reps. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., and Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., co-chairs of the Problem Solvers Caucus.

“For decades, partisan political divides have prevented us from taking the necessary steps to address many of the challenges facing our nation. Now is the time for bipartisan cooperation.

“Over the past several years, the Problem Solvers Caucus has viewed bipartisanship as a virtue and has sought to bring both sides together to improve the lives of our constituents and to strengthen our democracy. That is why we are putting forth bipartisan proposals to improve our crumbling infrastructure, fix our broken immigration system, secure our border, stabilize health care costs, and stand by our first responders. We will continue to help the people we care about and who we were sent to Washington to represent.

“We are indeed stronger as a country when Congress and the president work together to move us forward as one nation.”

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