State of the Union 2020: President Trump Delivers Final Address of His First Term
At his annual State of the Union address, President Donald Trump has hailed the “great American comeback”.
His speech to Congress exposed sharp divisions at the top of US politics.
President Trump was speaking on the eve of his expected acquittal on corruption charges in his impeachment trial.
At one point the Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped up a copy of the president’s speech behind him.
Donald Trump delivered the nationally televised speech in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, where he was impeached in December.
His trial in the Senate culminates on February 5 but with Republicans in charge there he is all but certain to be cleared and escape being thrown out of office.
President Trump did not mention impeachment at all in his speech although he did jab at Democrats.
Republican lawmakers chanted “four more years” as Donald Trump prepared to speak, urging him on for November’s White House election.
The State of the Union address is a speech delivered by the president to Congress towards the beginning of each calendar year in office.
The speech is usually used as a chance to report on the condition of the nation, but also allows the president to outline a legislative agenda and national priorities.
State of the Union 2016: Barack Obama Delivers Final Address
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been one of the president’s fiercest critics – she was the one who first launched formal impeachment efforts last year. President Trump has frequently taunted her as “Crazy Nancy”.
It was the first time the two had come face-to-face since Nancy Pelosi stormed out of a White House meeting four months ago.
Before President Trump began speaking at the podium in the well of the House, he appeared to snub the outstretched hand of Nancy Pelosi, America’s most powerful elected Democrat.
The House speaker, critics noticed, skipped the traditional introduction welcoming the president as a “distinct honor”.
When President Trump accused Democrats of planning to force American taxpayers to provide unlimited free healthcare to undocumented immigrants, Nancy Pelosi was observed twice mouthing: “Not true.”
Nancy Pelosi stunned onlookers by shredding a copy of the president’s remarks as he concluded.
She told reporters afterwards her gesture was “the courteous thing to do, considering the alternatives”.
Nancy Pelosi did rise to applaud the president more than once, including when he promoted his pet project of infrastructure investment, a possible area of bipartisan co-operation.
President Trump struck an upbeat note in a speech lasting one hour and 18 minutes that contrasted sharply with his lament of “American carnage” in his 2017 inaugural presidential address.
In an implicit rebuke to his predecessor Barack Obama, President Trump told his audience: “In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American decline and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny.
“We are moving forward at a pace that was unimaginable just a short time ago, and we are never going back!”
President Trump repeatedly swiped at Democrats, including left-wing candidates such as Bernie Sanders, who are vying to challenge him for the presidency.
As is tradition, President Trump invited several special guests, including Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, military veterans and the brother of a man killed by an undocumented immigrant.
In a move certain to infuriate liberal critics, President Trump announced he would award the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, to firebrand conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who revealed this week he has lung cancer.
First Lady Melania Trump bestowed the honor on an emotional Rush Limbaugh as the president spoke.
A protester was escorted from the chamber while President Trump defended gun rights. It was Fred Guttenberg, the father of Jaime Guttenberg, a student killed in a mass school shooting at Parkland, Florida, in February 2018.
Fred Guttenberg was a guest of Nancy Pelosi.
Each year after the State of the Union speech, a member of the main opposition party is tasked with responding and this year it fell to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
The governor accused the president of failing to fix America’s problems.
She said: “Bullying people on Twitter doesn’t fix bridges – it burns them.”
As they did last year, many female Democrats – including Nancy Pelosi – wore white as tribute to the suffragettes who won the vote for US women a century ago.
Several liberal Democratic lawmakers, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Maxine Waters of California, boycotted President Trump’s address.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that she would “not use my presence at a state ceremony to normalize Trump’s lawless conduct & subversion of the Constitution”.
Other left-wing Democrats, including Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, walked out during President Trump’s speech.
As is traditional during the State of the Union, one member of the president’s cabinet did not attend the address.
He or she remains at a secret location to make sure the government can continue should calamity befall the nation’s president, vice-president and other top leaders.
This time, that person, who is known as the designated survivor, was Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.