And the California Democrat defended her decision to publicly tear up a copy of Trump’s speech Tuesday night in the moments after he concluded his speech, saying she did not “need any lessons from anybody, especially the president of the United States, about dignity.”
“It’s appalling the things that he says. And then you say to me: ‘Tearing up his falsehoods, isn’t that the wrong message?’ No, it isn’t,” she said, adding: “I feel very liberated. I feel that I’ve extended every possible courtesy. I’ve shown every level of respect.”
Those remarks came as the GOP continued using Pelosi’s shredding of the speech to fuel political attacks. House Republicans forced a vote Thursday afternoon on reprimanding Pelosi for her conduct; lawmakers voted on party lines to block the move, 224 to 193. One Republican congressman, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, said he would file an ethics complaint.
Most of Pelosi’s fellow Democrats, meanwhile, applauded her unusually fiery rebuke, saying that Trump’s repeated violations of American political norms have grated away her typical politesse.
“She wants to see the good in people,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.). “And then every time where she has reached out her hand, he has literally snubbed her. And I think there’s something finally snapped where she said: Enough is enough. He’s destroyed our Constitution. He’s taken no accountability. He’s shown no remorse. And now he’s not even willing to go through the pro forma of giving a speech at the State of the Union to find any common ground.”
Not all Democrats have been so understanding. As the House voted Thursday on the reprimand, two moderate freshman Democrats confronted her on the floor over her decision to tear up the speech.
Reps. Joe Cunningham (S.C.) and Ben McAdams (Utah) together spoke to Pelosi for several minutes on the House floor before they cast votes to block the attempted reprimand.
McAdams said in an interview that he told Pelosi that he thought the gesture was “inappropriate” and “beneath us.” Cunningham said he found “blame on both sides” for the displays of partisanship at Tuesday’s address: “I didn’t come up here to amplify it or fan those flames. I came here to extinguish them.”
Another breach of comity came early Thursday morning at the Prayer Breakfast, where Pelosi sat on the same dais as Trump as the president suggested that his political enemies were being dishonest in invoking their faith in opposition to him.
Pelosi, a Catholic, frequently says she prays for Trump, and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Wednesday cited his Mormon faith in deciding to convict Trump on one of two impeachment articles — abuse of power.
“I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong,” Trump said. “Nor do I like people who say, ‘I pray for you,’ when they know that that’s not so.”
Speaking to reporters, Pelosi bristled at the remarks: “He’s talking about things that he knows little about, faith and prayer.”
She praised Romney — “God bless him for his courage” — and called Trump’s attacks on him “particularly without class,” then said her prayers for the president were genuine and needed.
“I pray hard for him because he’s so off the track of our Constitution, our values, our country, the air our children breathe, the water they drink and the rest,” she said. “He can say whatever he wants. But I do pray for him and I do so sincerely and without anguish.”
Pelosi touched briefly on the concluded impeachment proceedings, speaking roughly an hour before Trump marked the occasion at the White House with a raucous event celebrating his acquittal.
There, Trump called Pelosi “a horrible person” and continued questioning her sincerity: “She may pray, but she prays for the opposite. But I doubt she prays at all.”
Pelosi beforehand said Trump will always be known as an impeached president, the third in the nation’s history.
“He’s impeached forever, no matter what he says,” Pelosi said. “You’re never getting rid of that scar. History will always record that you were impeached for undermining the security of our country, jeopardizing the integrity of our elections and violating the Constitution of the United States.”
She also did not rule out continuing House investigations of the Ukraine affair that sparked the impeachment or other alleged Trump misdeeds.
But her sharpest remarks were reserved for Trump’s State of the Union performance, which at times resembled a campaign rally, with chants of “Four more years” from the assembled GOP lawmakers and made-for-TV moments that included reuniting a deployed soldier with his family and the awarding of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to radio talk-show host and conservative firebrand Rush Limbaugh.
Pelosi called the spectacle “beneath the dignity of the White House” and “an insult to the Congress of the United States and the American people.” Rather than a State of the Union address, she added, Trump had offered “a state of mind that had no contact with reality whatsoever.”
“We will not allow any president to use that Capitol, that chamber of the House of Representatives, of the People’s House, as a backdrop,” she said before referencing the Limbaugh episode: “Do it in your own office. We don’t come in your office and do congressional business. Why are you doing that here?”
Limbaugh this week announced he has been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, and when Trump made mention of a cancer diagnosis in his address, Pelosi said, she thought he was about to honor Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), an acclaimed civil rights figure who is battling pancreatic cancer.
“A hero in our country,” she said of Lewis, before detailing her decision to tear up the speech.
Pelosi could be seen on camera as he spoke flipping through the copy of the address that Trump had handed her as he climbed the rostrum. She told reporters she read quickly through the speech and decided she had to send a message.
“I started to think: There has to be something that clearly indicates to the American people that this is not the truth,” she said. “He has shredded the truth in his speech. He’s shredding the Constitution in his conduct. I shredded his ‘state of his mind’ address.”
The GOP reprimand measure offered Thursday noted that Trump’s speech honored several members of the military and said Pelosi “degraded the proceedings of the joint session, to the discredit of the House.” It was sponsored by Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tex.), a veteran appropriator who is currently facing a serious primary challenge from a conservative who has questioned her loyalty to Trump.
Some Republicans saw Pelosi’s move as a stunt that took a page out of Trump’s own playbook.
“I think she’s realized, just like the president does, there’s a certain percentage of the base that applauds that strong punch-back stuff,” said Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.). “It looks like that she’s enjoying that adrenaline, that applause.”
But Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), the House Budget Committee chairman, said he did not expect Pelosi to go too far down the road of Trumpian behavior.
“I don’t think she’s capable of going too far overboard,” he said. “I think this is about as wild as you’ll see it.”