The differences between United States President Donald Trump and Democratic speaker of House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi were on public display on Tuesday during the former’s State of the Union speech. Pelosi, who launched Trump’s impeachment proceedings, tore a copy of the president’s speech after it ended. Earlier, Trump had refused to shake hands with Pelosi.
The White House accused Pelosi of disrespecting the guests Trump invited to the event by tearing up the State of the Union speech. Pelosi, however, defended her actions. “It was the courteous thing to do,” she told reporters, according to BBC. “It was such a dirty speech.”
Pelosi also avoided citing the customary “high privilege and distinct honour” that accompanies the Speaker’s introduction of the president to Congress. “Members of Congress, the President of the United States” was all she said while introducing Trump.
After his speech, fellow Republicans gave him standing ovations while rival Democrats remained seated. At least 10 Democratic lawmakers such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Maxine Waters of California refused to attend the annual speech in protest, reported The Guardian. A few Democrats like Rashida Tlaib of Michigan even walked out during Trump’s speech.
Trump began his speech by saying that “the state of our union is stronger than ever before”. During his 80-minute speech, the president claimed to have bolstered the country’s economic growth and increased jobs. “In just three short years we have shattered the mentality of American decline and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny,” he said.
Trump used his speech to lay out his vision for a second four-year term. He said the Democratic plan to expand government-funded health insurance amounted to a “socialist takeover” that would ruin the country, cut benefits and provide care to illegal immigrants. “We will never let socialism destroy American healthcare!” Trump said.
The president also revived his arguments that migrants should be stopped from crossing the southern US border. He added that the so-called “sanctuary cities” where migrants are protected were wrong. Pelosi could be seen shaking her head when Trump spoke on immigration.
Trump also praised the US military for carrying out a “flawless precision strike” that killed Iran’s military commander Qasem Soleimani. Soleimani was killed in January in a US drone strike in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. The assassination triggered renewed tensions between the United States and Iran.
Iran had retaliated to the assassination by firing ballistic missiles at two airbases housing US forces in Iraq. Tehran also accidentally shot down a passenger aircraft, killing 176 people.
“Soleimani was the Iranian Regime’s most ruthless butcher, a monster who murdered or wounded thousands of American service members in Iraq,” said Trump. “That is why, last month, at my direction, the US military executed a flawless precision strike that killed Soleimani and terminated his evil reign of terror forever. Our message to the terrorists is clear: You will never escape American justice. If you attack our citizens, you forfeit your life.”
The US president added that it was completely upto Iran if it wants to seek help. “Because of our powerful sanctions, the Iranian economy is doing very poorly,” claimed Trump. “We can help them make it very good in a short period of time, but perhaps they are too proud or too foolish to ask for that help. We are here. Let’s see which road they choose.”
The annual speech was held on the eve of the final verdict in Trump’s impeachment trial. Trump, however, avoided the topic during his speech.
In December, Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives on charges of abuse of power and for obstructing Congress, as he was formally accused of pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democratic Party leader Joe Biden – a leading contender for his party’s presidential nomination – while using as leverage a nearly $400-million package of military assistance.
The Senate, controlled by Trump’s Republican Party, will now decide whether to convict and remove him from office. The Republicans control the Senate 53–47 and are most likely to acquit him. However, the trial may have repercussions for Trump’s re-election bid.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer presented the Democratic rebuttal to Trump’s speech. She accused the president of failing to fix America’s problems. “Bullying people on Twitter doesn’t fix bridges – it burns them,” she added.