WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump was gone, the House lights were dimming, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi looked up to her friends and family in the gallery overhead. She held up the speech she had shredded behind Trump’s back, on live television. She put her hand to her heart, dipped her head and gave a little bow.
The moment showcased Pelosi’s sharper, less-restrained approach to the nation’s 45th president at the bitter end of the impeachment saga she led.
And that’s saying something, considering her unapologetic style when it comes to him. She smirked and clapped, eye-to-eye with him at last year’s State of the Union. In private, she questioned the president’s manhood. And she stalked out of a White House meeting with him in October, bluntly suggesting the president is controlled by his counterpart in Russia.
But her speech-shredding on Tuesday night appeared to mark a pointier, post-impeachment phase, one Trump’s reelection campaign quickly sought to monetize.
“Wow. Nancy ripped my speech. She truly hates America,” said a text Wednesday as part of an effort to raise $2 million in 24 hours.
As Republicans piled on the condemnation, Pelosi brandished the ripped paper in full view of reporters and repeated in the hallways that she “tore it up.”
“I felt very liberated last night,” Pelosi told House Democrats in their private caucus meeting Wednesday, according to a Democratic aide in the room, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the remarks. She said she viewed Trump’s remarks as “a pack of lies” on everything from health care to Medicare and Medicaid.
“We saw the president of the United States shred the truth right in front of us,” she said. “My friends, we just have to declare it.”
That’s what Pelosi said she was doing during Trump’s address to the nation, in which he extolled a “great American comeback.” Trump was speaking from a place of strength, with the Republican Party mostly solidly behind him, on the brink of his Senate acquittal Wednesday.
By Wednesday, Republicans were predicting the Democrats would pay a political price for Pelosi’s conduct, which they suggested was a stunt. Videos of the State of the Union showed Pelosi making small tears in some of the papers which might have made it easier to tear the documents in total at the end of Trump’s speech.
“I think it was a new low,” Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday on “Fox & Friends.” He accused Pelosi of trying to make the evening “about her and I think the American people see through it.”
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) released a video of himself tearing apart the Articles of Impeachment against Trump. In a Facebook post Tillis said, “Two can play this game, Speaker Pelosi. Glad to finally put impeachment in the rear view mirror so we can get back to work for the people of North Carolina.”
The Senate cleared Trump on Wednesday mostly along party lines. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted a video of himself ripping a piece of paper and saying, “Acquitted for life.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.