By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi had not planned to tear up President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech but decided to do so after she could not find a page “that didn’t have a lie on it,” she told fellow Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday.
Pelosi ripped a copy of Trump’s speech on Tuesday night seconds after the Republican president finished delivering it. She got a standing ovation from Democratic lawmakers at their caucus meeting on Wednesday, Democratic aides said.
“Last night, we saw the president of the United States shred the truth right in front of us. Tear up the truth,” Pelosi said, according to an aide who took notes at the closed-door gathering.
Pelosi said Trump had lied by asserting he would protect healthcare insurance coverage for patients with pre-existing medical conditions, when his administration is backing a lawsuit seeking to overturn a law that protects those patients.
“I tried to find one page I could spare that didn’t have a lie on it,” Pelosi said, according to the aide.
As she looked at Trump’s written text, “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 … stand. So … I started to stack my papers in a way that were tear-able,” she told lawmakers, according to the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The president’s failing to shake her outstretched hand before the speech, when he handed her the paper copy of his remarks, was not a factor in her tearing up the document, Pelosi told fellow lawmakers. “Who cares?” she said.
The speaker, who led the impeachment drive against Trump, has had a strained relationship for months with the president. Trump was expected to be acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate on Wednesday.
House Republicans said they were outraged by Pelosi’s act, captured live on television while the president was still acknowledging applause from fellow Republicans in the House of Representatives chamber.
“It’s very sad that a person in that position, next in line to the presidency after the vice president” would tear up the speech, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters. “I don’t know of any other speaker that ever acted that way.”
The chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Hakeem Jeffries, had no problem with Pelosi’s move. “As far as I’m concerned, a shredder wasn’t available, so she did what she needed to do,” he said.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)