State of the Union top moments: Trump honors Limbaugh, and Pelosi lets it rip
US President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 4, 2020.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
President Donald Trump delivered his third State of the Union on Tuesday before a joint session of Congress.
The speech came in the thick of the president’s 2020 reelection campaign, and one day before he is expected to be acquitted by the Senate on impeachment charges brought by the House of Representatives in the same room in which he delivered the State of the Union.
The ceremonial address resembled a campaign speech, with the president boasting of his record on jobs, pledging to protect Social Security and warning against Democratic policy proposals. Republicans led a chant of “four more years” at the start. The president did not mention impeachment.
Among those in attendance was Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, whom the Trump administration has supported in his efforts to topple President Nicolas Maduro, the country’s socialist leader.
Notably absent from the speech was a slate of high-profile Democrats, including the progressive freshmen Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
Here are the night’s top moments.
Trump doesn’t shake Pelosi’s hand, she rips up his speech
The night began and ended with dramatic acts of partisanship.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sought to shake the president’s hand after Trump handed her what appeared to be a copy of his remarks. But Trump did not shake her hand.
At the end of the speech, Pelosi ripped up the papers and cast them aside.
Asked why she did so, Pelosi explained to reporters afterwards: “It was the courteous thing to do, considering the alternative.”
Pelosi and Trump have tangled over politics and matters of temperament, with tensions rising particularly high during the impeachment process. But the Pelosi-Trump feud began much earlier.
In May, even as she resisted calls for impeachment, Pelosi suggested that Trump’s staff should stage “an intervention.”
Limbaugh awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom
The president awarded the conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh America’s highest civilian honor, with the first lady affixing the honor herself.
Limbaugh, a close ally of the president, announced on his radio program on Monday that he has advanced lung cancer.
“This is not good news,” Trump said, referring to the diagnosis. “But what is good news is that he is the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet. Rush Limbaugh: Thank you for your decades of tireless devotion to our country.”
Trump has also awarded Presidential Medals of Freedom to former Sen. Orrin Hatch, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, long-dead music legend Elvis Presley and star golfer Tiger Woods.
Trump celebrates Guaido, Venezuela’s ‘legitimate’ leader
One of the president’s special guests on Tuesday was Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is pushing to overthrow Nicolas Maduro, the country’s president.
“Maduro is an illegitimate ruler, a tyrant who brutalizes his people. But Maduro’s grip of tyranny will be smashed and broken,” Trump said. “Here this evening is a man who carries with him the hopes, dreams and aspirations of all Venezuelans. Joining us in the gallery is the true and legitimate President of Venezuela, Juan Guaido.”
Bloomberg News reported in December that the president was beginning to lose confidence in Guaido’s ability to oust Maduro.
The White House has been upping its pressure campaign on Maduro in recent weeks. The administration last month announced new sanctions on more than a dozen aircraft operated by the country’s state-owned oil companythat transport senior members of the Maduro regime.
Trump attacks Democratic health-care proposals as ‘socialism’
Trump is hyper-aware that he could soon be facing a Democrat who supports overhauling the nation’s health-care system. On Tuesday, he saved some of his harshest criticism for Democratic health-care reforms.
“There are those who want to take away your health care, take away your doctor, and abolish private insurance entirely,” Trump said. “One hundred thirty-two lawmakers in this room have endorsed legislation to impose a socialist takeover of our health-care system, wiping out the private health insurance plans of 180 million Americans.”
“To those watching at home tonight, I want you to know: We will never let socialism destroy American healthcare,” he added.
Trump also warned that Democrats wanted to “provide unlimited free health care to illegal aliens.”
Some of the top 2020 candidates, including former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have said they believe undocumented immigrants should be covered by a government-run health plan, according to a Washington Post survey.