- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2020

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to punctuate President Trump’s State of the Union speech with a theatrical, on-camera shredding of her copy of the address reverberated Wednesday across a deeply polarized Capitol Hill.

Democrats rallied to Mrs. Pelosi, calling her paper-ripping while Mr. Trump was wrapping up his remark a justifiable act of rebellion in the face of misinformation. Republicans, though, said the speaker’s antics only exacerbate the country’s deepening political divisions.

The brief moment, a potent illustration of simmering tension in a Capitol embroiled in a bitterly partisan impeachment battle, immediately went viral online Tuesday night and was the talk of Washington, social media and the news networks the following day.

The nationally televised fit of pique followed an awkward exchange at the start of the night in which Mrs. Pelosi extended her hand for a handshake, but Mr. Trump either missed the gesture or snubbed her on purpose.

“Perhaps she will tear up the verdict like she tore up the State of the Union address,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, quipped in his speech ahead of the final impeachment trial vote.

In a closed door meeting, Mrs. Pelosi told her members that she felt “liberated” ripping up her copy of the speech.

“Last night, we saw the president of the United States shred the truth right in front of us. Tear up the truth. We saw him lie about preexisting conditions, that he’s the champion when he’s in court suing for it,” the California Democrat said, according to an aide.

“I tried to find one page I could spare that didn’t have a lie on it. Of course, I tried to be courteous and appropriate and all that. But the fact is, there is too much at risk, too much at stake — and everything that America is: our Constitution, our rights, freedom of the press, the guardians of our democracy — all put down,” she told Democrats.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler told reporters he was “delighted” by the moment and, according to an aide, the speaker received a standing ovation Wednesday morning from her caucus.

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, argued the House speaker’s behavior was an insult to the American heroes singled out in the president’s speech, including Charles McGee, one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen.

The California Republican hand-delivered a signed replacement copy of the speech to the House later, telling members the speaker “had no right to destroy this document, especially one filled with such impactful stories of American patriots. That record … belongs to the American people.”

Vice President Mike Pence, campaigning in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, urged supporters to vote for Republicans in November so the GOP can take back the House.

“Let’s make sure it’s the last time Speaker Nancy Pelosi ever sits in the chair behind the president during the State of the Union address,” Mr. Pence said.

Democrats said the president set the confrontational tone for the night when he didn’t shake Mrs. Pelosi’s hand at the start of the speech.

“The author of animosity is Donald J. Trump,” said Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat.

Democrats objected to a number of the president’s claims in his speech, particularly his remarks about the looming threat of socialism, issues with immigration and claiming the booming economy as a course correction from the previous administration.

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