The feud between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump -- that escalated memorably at Tuesday's State of the Union address -- continued Wednesday amid an impending Senate vote to acquit the president, with Pelosi saying she "felt very liberated" when she ripped up his speech even before he'd finished speaking.
After 134 days of impeachment drama, Pelosi told her caucus members that Democrats watched Trump "shred the truth right in front of us, tear up the truth," according to a Democratic aide who attended a closed-door meeting in the Capitol basement.
While Republicans say Pelosi’s performance “dishonored the House,” Pelosi contended that Trump “disrespected the chamber” and used it “as a backdrop for a reality show” for a speech “that had no connection with reality.”
“I felt very liberated last night. If that is what he is going to do, if that is what he is going to say as he’s taking away disability benefits from people on Social Security, or he is dismantling Medicaid, or he is in court trying to undo the pre-existing condition. The list goes on and on,” Pelosi, D-Calif., told her fellow House Democrats. “I tried to find one page I could spare that didn’t have a lie on it.”
Pelosi said she “tried to be courteous and appropriate and all that … But the fact is, there is too much at risk, too much at stake," she said, calling Trump’s speech “an exploitation of a constitutional provision.”
“This is not the State of the Union called for in the Constitution of the United States, for the President to come and report on the State of the Union or send a copy of his remarks," she said. "It’s an exploitation of a constitutional provision.”
Pelosi also downplayed Trump snubbing her effort to shake hands and said the speech “was a pack of lies.”
“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?” She said. “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 – we cannot let this stand.’ So, somewhere along the way realizing what was coming, realizing I started to stack my papers in a way that were tear-able – and tear-able – and terrible. So, again, there was no plan.”
Ahead of a Senate vote on two articles of impeachment, Republicans were taking an early victory lap.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy asserted that Democrats have “wasted” their majority, proclaiming the president will be “acquitted for life” following the conclusion of the Senate impeachment trial this afternoon.
“I hope the Democrats will finally end their desire to impeach this president. I know it's been what they craved the majority for, and what they spent and wasted their majority on,” McCarthy, R-Calif., said. “I hope they wake up today knowing that we can be better.”
“I'm glad it's going to finally end today, and it's going to end it acquittal,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., surmised. “In this case there was never a crime. There was the hope by Speaker Pelosi and all of the radical socialist Democrats who started this to try to find something and they never did and yet they still put the country through this and it's a shame that they did it.”
Republicans also expressed disgust that Pelosi ripped up the president’s address, pointing out it was “an official document.”
“Speaker Pelosi had a tantrum. She disgraced herself, she dishonored the House. She showed once again that she is an embarrassment, that she is unfit for office,” House Republican Conference chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said. “It was a really disgraceful show and I think that the speaker capped it all off at the end of the speech, but the American people deserve better.”
Cheney and McCarthy said the quest to remove the president from office will hurt Democrats, predicting Republicans will win back the House this fall.
“The American people deserve better, the American people are going to get better,” Cheney promised. “We feel very, very confident that come November, they're going to make the right decision and Speaker Pelosi his term as Speaker of the House will not go beyond this year.”
“I think their past behavior is the best indication of a future behavior,” McCarthy said. “The question is really to the American public: Do they want more of the same, or would they like a Congress that would work with them across the aisle, that would put America first instead of blaming America first? I think that's the question come November. And I think reading the latest polls, I think America is waking to the lies of this new majority and the wasted time that they have had at their job.”