WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump, emerging from the shadow of impeachment, faced Democratic lawmakers who seek to toss him from office on Tuesday at a State of the Union speech he used to belittle his opponents and tout the US economy.
Trump avoided the subject of his impeachment in the early portion of his speech, but the scars from the battle were evident with fellow Republicans giving him standing ovations while rival Democrats for the most part remained seated.
The Republican-led Senate was expected to acquit him on Wednesday of charges he abused his powers and obstructed Congress.
Seeing US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the first time since she stormed out of a White House meeting four months ago, he declined to shake her outstretched hand as he gave her a copy of the speech.
Pelosi appeared to be taken aback. She and Trump have not spoken since their October meeting, both sides said.
In the audience, Republicans from both houses of Congress chanted “four more years” as he stood at the lectern in the chamber of the House with a presidential election almost exactly nine months away.
Democrats sat silently and some could be seen shaking their heads as Trump declared, “The state of our union is stronger than ever before.”
Pelosi, who dropped her opposition to impeachment and allowed Democratic lawmakers to seek impeachment charges against him, sat stoically and grim-faced behind Trump and paged through a written copy of his speech.
After the speech, Pelosi ripped the papers it was printed on at the podium - an act dismissed by Republicans.
— Variety (@Variety) February 5, 2020
“It was a manifesto of mistruths,” Pelosi told reporters as she left the Capitol. The ripping was not planned, according to a person close to the speaker who was unauthorized to speak publicly.
Trump presented himself as a big improvement over Democratic President Barack Obama, whom he succeed three years ago.
“In just three short years we have shattered the mentality of American decline and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny,” he said. The House impeachment managers, who are acting as prosecutors in the Senate impeachment trial, were seated together at the front of the Democrats’ section.
Many House Democratic women wore white for a second year in a row, a sign of the suffragist movement that won women the right to vote 100 years ago. Several Democratic lawmakers refused to attend the annual speech to protest Trump.
Trump, using the speech to lay out his vision for a second four-year term, attacked some of the health care proposals being debated among his Democratic rivals on the campaign trail.
Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have proposed health care plans that would be entirely run by the government, a sharp departure from the current, private system in which millions of Americans get medical insurance from their employers.
While Trump has likened their plans to socialism, his lack of a health care plan has left him open to criticism that he has not put enough work into finding a way to reduce rising insurance costs that burden middle-class Americans.
“We will never let socialism destroy American health care!” Trump said.
Trump offered an upbeat portrayal of his presidency in hopes of persuading Americans to give him another four-year term in the Nov. 3 election.
“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!” Trump said.
Aides said Trump wanted to keep the speech upbeat despite his anger at being impeached by the House. He was expected to address the controversy after his almost certain acquittal in the Senate.
Trump also revived his arguments that migrants should be stopped from crossing the southern US border and that so-called “sanctuary cities” where migrants are protected are wrong.
After coming close to a broad conflict with Iran after he ordered the killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, Trump said “we are working to END America’s wars in the Middle East.”