House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tore her copy of President Donald Trump's State of the Union address in half after he delivered the speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night.
Patrick Semansky/AP
  • Tension between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi permeated the room during Tuesday night's State of the Union address.
  • Trump snubbed Pelosi's attempted handshake, and she tore up a copy of his speech at the end.
  • Pelosi later referred to Trump's address as a "dirty speech."
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The palpable tension between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was the biggest theme of the night on Tuesday as the president delivered his third State of the Union address.

At the start, Trump snubbed Pelosi when she offered a handshake, setting the tone for the evening. Moments later, Pelosi broke congressional tradition by referring to Trump as only "the president of the United States." In the past, House speakers introduced the sitting president by saying they had the "high privilege and distinct honour of presenting to you the president of the United States."

By the end of the address, which in many ways was a speech meant exclusively for Trump's supporters, Pelosi appeared miffed.

The House speaker ripped up a copy of Trump's speech right after he stopped talking. When a reporter asked why she did it, Pelosi said, "Because it was a courteous thing to do considering the alternatives."

"It was such a dirty speech," Pelosi added.

Beyond the tension with Pelosi, Trump put on a show for Republicans and his base.

He began his speech to a raucous chorus of "four more years" from lawmakers. He made a point of demonising socialism (and Democratic calls for universal healthcare) in concert with the presence of the Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, one of his invited guests. He awarded Rush Limbaugh, the polarising conservative radio host who this week announced he had advanced lung cancer, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And, among other moments such as honouring a 100-year-old World War II veteran who was one of the Tuskegee Airmen, he surprised a service member's family with his homecoming.

In between these made-for-TV moments, Trump drew applause from Republicans as he went after illegal immigration and promised to uphold Second Amendment rights.

The president's State of the Union address came on the eve of his expected acquittal in his Senate impeachment trial. And though Trump did not mention the elephant in the room during his speech, the friction and animosity the impeachment process has catalyzed were clearly present in the chamber.

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