James Rosen, the longtime Fox News correspondent now with right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group, told me he didn’t like the assignment his editors gave him Thursday morning.

So, he said as we awaited House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s news conference, he decided to come up to Capitol Hill and, as he put it, make his own news.

He proceeded to do just that.

Pelosi had been the very definition of deliberate Thursday, first in a televised statement announcing that lawmakers would draw up articles of impeachment against President Trump, and then in a news conference defending the “heartbreaking” decision.

But as she strode off the stage, Rosen stopped her in her tracks with seven words:

“Do you hate the president, Madam Speaker?”

She turned, pointed a finger at Rosen and walked toward him. “I don’t hate anybody,” she said. “Not anybody in the world.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she “resents” accusations on impeaching President Trump out of hate in a news conference on Dec. 5. (The Washington Post)

She returned to the microphones. She pulled up her sleeve to reveal a bracelet made with a bullet from a shooting survivor.

“I think this president is a coward when it comes to helping our kids who are afraid of gun violence,” she said. “I think he is cruel when he doesn’t deal with helping our ‘dreamers,’ of which we are very proud. I think he’s in denial about the climate crisis.” She made a motion with her hand sweeping all that away. “However, that’s about the election.”

Impeachment, she went on, “is about the Constitution of the United States and the facts that lead to the president’s violation of his oath of office.”

Looking at Rosen again, she said: “And as a Catholic, I resent your using the word ‘hate’ in a sentence that addresses me. I don’t hate anyone. … And I still pray for the president.” She concluded: “So don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.”

After she left, you could hear the reporters’ exhalations in the silence.

It was raw. It was angry. And it was powerful, in a way her prepared statements on impeachment, full of Founders’ quotes and Latin phrases, were not. She got at the essence of impeachment: This isn’t a personality dispute or a political disagreement, much as Republicans try to make it so. The president abused his office for personal gain — plain and simple.

Trump saw a woman speaking forcefully and attributed it to a medical condition. “Nancy Pelosi just had a nervous fit,” he tweeted. As for Pelosi’s prayers, Trump replied: “I don’t believe her.”

I once doubted that Pelosi, about to turn 80, was the right leader for Democrats against Trump. But she was made for this moment. She uniquely gets under Trump’s skin, routinely beating him in standoffs with her blend of sorrow and bewilderment: “This is a strain of cat that I don’t have the medical credentials to analyze nor the religious credentials to judge,” she told the New Yorker.

Republicans needled her as she resisted the left’s impeachment demands. Now Republicans needle her for rushing impeachment. Yet she pulled off the near-miracle of uniting Democrats, first counseling them to wait for something “overwhelming and bipartisan,” and then, when the Ukraine scandal made clear bipartisanship was impossible no matter how overwhelming the evidence, she struck swiftly.

She began the day reading a statement from a teleprompter announcing impeachment articles would be drawn. She seemed tense — “oath of office” sounded more like “oafuthoaf” — and the language was high 18th century, from Jefferson to Gouverneur Morris to Benjamin Franklin.

A little over an hour later, a more relaxed Pelosi visited the House TV studio, taking the usual shots at the “rogue Senate leader” Mitch McConnell, joking with reporters about impeachment ruining their holidays and batting down concerns about her decision to proceed.

Fox News’s Chad Pergram asked about slowing down.

“We feel comfortable with all of the time that has gone into this, two and a half years since the appointment of [Robert] Mueller, and all that transpired since then.”

CNN’s Manu Raju asked about a potential backlash.

“This has absolutely nothing to do with politics,” she said (a claim that might have been more persuasive if she hadn’t just cited impeachment polling).

Nor, she said, would she wait while Trump, losing in court, exhausts his appeals. “We have our facts, and we will act upon them,” she said, vowing additional actions later.

She could have left it at that, and ignored Rosen’s parting question. The two have a history (she previously dubbed him “Mr. Republican Talking Points”), and he obviously wanted to provoke.

But she made an instinctive decision to get in Rosen’s face with a righteous smackdown of those, such as Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), who claim Democrats are motivated by hate. The commanding result was one more reminder that, in this moment, you “don’t mess with” Pelosi.

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