- Topping off a night of partisan theatrics, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi ripped President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address following the conclusion of his speech.
- Pelosi’s move came after Trump broke years of tradition by not shaking the speaker’s hand before he began.
- During Trump’s speech, the father of a Parkland shooting victim shouted at Trump after the president said he would protect the Second Amendment. That man was then escorted from the room.
- Trump also awarded conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during the SOTU. While not met with immediate controversy, the award sparked both criticism and applause on social media.
Pelosi Rips Trump’s Speech
Though Tuesday’s State of the Union was undoubtedly President Trump’s biggest night of the year to address American audiences, partisan theatrics were arguably the biggest headline by the end of the night.
From beginning to end, the address was capped with tense moments between Trump and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, culminating in Pelosi’s decision to rip Trump’s speech in two after he finished speaking.
The tension began when Trump failed to shake Pelosi’s hand upon approaching the stage. After Trump handed her his speech, Pelosi then reached out her hand to shake his, however, she did so as Trump was in the process of turning away to face the podium.
Trump also did not shake Vice President Mike Pence’s hand. As per tradition, the vice president and speaker both sit directly behind the president during his address.
The move by both has been interpreted a variety of ways on social media, with some saying that Trump deliberately ignored Pelosi because she launched the impeachment trial that began in the House of Representatives. Others noted how quickly Trump turned away, suggesting that he just didn’t see her hand.
It’s very likely Trump didn’t even see Nancy’s hand.— @JoMichigan (@JoMichigan1) February 5, 2020
After reviewing it over, it appears that Trump turned and didn’t see her hand extended.— Dane Zeiner (@ZeinerDaine) February 5, 2020
While it is entirely possible Trump simply missed Pelosi’s gesture, his decision to not shake her hand breaks long-standing tradition. Last year, he shook both Pelosi and Pence’s hands. In 2018, he shook the hand of then-speaker Paul Ryan. Upon simple review of SOTU addresses from former presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, and Bush Sr., all shook their respective speakers’ hands.
The tension between the two then escalated when Pelosi broke protocol in addressing Trump as he entered the room.
“Members of Congress, the President of the United States,” she said.
Notably, that line omits a key part of the phrase the speaker is supposed to say: “Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and distinct honor of presenting to you the President of the United States.”
Following Trump’s address, reporters asked Pelosi why she decided to destroy Trump’s speech.
“Because it was the courteous thing to do, considering the alternative,” she responded.
Also following the speech, many on social media felt divided by the move. By Wednesday morning, a large portion of the top trends concerned the moment, with people using hashtags like #PettyPelosi, #PelosiMeltdown, #NancytheRipper, and #NancyIsABadass.
On the president’s personal Twitter page, he’s retweeted nearly two dozen people, all of whom posted tweets critical of Pelosi. Likewise, Trump retweeted a message from the official White House Twitter that condemned Pelosi’s action.
“Speaker Pelosi just ripped up: One of our last surviving Tuskegee Airmen. The survival of a child born at 21 weeks. The mourning families of Rocky Jones and Kayla Mueller. A service member’s reunion with his family. That’s her legacy,” the tweet reads.
On the other side of the debate, Freshman representative Rashida Tlaib gave her support for such a move.
“I would have shredded it,” she said on Twitter.
Parkland Dad’s Outburst
Moments during Trump’s address were also met with controversy. Soon after finishing a statement about how he will protect the Second Amendment, Trump was met with an outburst from a person in the crowd.
That man turned out to be Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed during the Parkland school shooting in 2018. Guttenberg had been invited to the address by Pelosi, and since his daughter’s death, he has become an active advocate for gun control.
Following his outburst, Guttenberg was escorted from the House chamber by a plain-clothed police officer. During this time, Trump did not acknowledge Guttenberg and continued with his speech.
Later Tuesday night, Guttenberg issued an apology via Twitter, where he said he was overcome with emotion in the moment.
“Tonight was a rough night,” he said. “I disrupted the State Of The Union and was detained because I let my emotions get the best of me. I simply want to be able to deal with the reality of gun violence and not have to listen to the lies about the 2A as happened tonight.”
“That said, I should not have yelled out,” he added. “I am thankful for the overwhelming support that I am receiving. However, I do owe my family and friends an apology. I have tried to conduct myself with dignity throughout this process and I will do better as I pursue gun safety.”
Guttenberg then received further support from people like California Governor Gavin Newsom and Parkland survivor David Hogg. Also on Twitter, #ImWithFred trended Tuesday night.
Limbaugh Awarded Medal of Freedom
In a move that wasn’t met with immediate controversy in the House chamber, Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rush Limbaugh, a conservative radio talk show host who’s been vocal about his support for Trump.
The award comes just a day after Limbaugh announced that he had been diagnosed with an advanced stage of lung cancer,
“Almost every American family knows the pain when a loved one is diagnosed with a serious illness,” Trump said of Limbaugh during his address. “Here tonight is a special man, someone beloved by millions of Americans who just received a Stage 4 advanced cancer diagnosis. This is not good news, 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.”
First Lady Melania Trump bestowed that medal upon a very ecstatic Limbaugh; however, others such as Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ihan Omar were critical of the award.
“The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an extraordinarily sacred award,” Osacio-Cortez said. “We’re talking about putting someone on the same level as Rosa Parks, you know, for example in terms of their contributions to American progress. Rush Limbaugh is a virulent racist.”
Trump Issues Over 140 Pardons and Commutations Ahead of Biden’s Inauguration
- In his last moments in office, now-former President Donald Trump granted clemency to more than 140 people at 1 a.m. Wednesday morning.
- Among the notable pardons and commutations were rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and Trump megadonor Elliott Broidy.
- Trump’s final round of clemency did include several nonviolent drug offenders whose requests had been supported by criminal justice reform advocates.
- Still, many also condemned Trump for overlooking people wronged by the justice system or those who have been rehabilitated. Instead, critics feel he was focused on giving out political favors to his allies.
Trump Grants Clemency
Former President Donald Trump issued more than 140 pardons and commutations at 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, just hours ahead of President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
The move marks Trump’s final major act before the end of his term. Many of the most notable pardons and commutations were given to people whose names had been circulating in reports earlier this week, including rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, as well as former adviser Steve Bannon.
Bannon’s pardon is especially significant because he has not yet stood trial for the charges he faces. The charges against Trump’s former right-hand man center around allegations that he defrauded half a million people who donated to a crowdsourcing campaign to fund the construction of the border wall.
The leaders of the charity, aptly named We Build the Wall, had claimed that the more than $25 million they had solicited in donations would go to their goal, but prosecutors claim that Bannon took $1 million for his own personal expenses.
Bannon’s pardon is also significant because, according to reports, the reason the clemency announcements were late was because Trump could not decide whether or not to pardon him. However, as The Washington Post notes, Trump’s ultimate decision “underscores how Trump has used his presidential power to benefit allies and political backers.”
Trump has recently granted pardons to several of his former top aides, many of whom seem to have a knack for committing crimes for him.
At the end of last year, he pardoned his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and his close friend and adviser, Roger Stone. All three had been convicted of crimes during the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In this newest batch of clemency grants, the former president also pardoned Elliott Broidy, a top Trump campaign fundraiser. Broidy pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws and accepting millions of dollars as part of a secret campaign to lobby the administration for Malaysian and Chinese interests.
Trump additionally pardoned a number of politicians who have been indicted for corruption, including three former Republican members of Congress and one former Democratic mayor.
Those Left Out
Trump’s last round of pardons and commutations did include several nonviolent drug offenders whose requests had been supported by criminal justice reformers. One of those individuals was Chris Young, a man who had been sentenced to life for drug conspiracy, and whose commutation Kim Kardashian West had lobbied.
But in general, Trump has largely been condemned by criminal justice advocates for overlooking people wronged by the justice system or those who have rehabilitated. Instead, they feel he was focused on giving out political favors to his allies.
Despite the attention some of his pardons have received, either because they had celebrity power behind them or were controversial, Trump has actually approved fewer clemency requests than most previous presidents who served one term or less. Until this week, he had only granted clemency to 95 people.
Also of note are the controversial pardons that Trump was reportedly considering but ultimately decided against. These included WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, and “Tiger King” star Joe Exotic, the latter of whom was so sure he would be pardoned that he had a limo waiting for him outside his prison.
Trump was also reportedly considering preemptively pardoning himself and his children, but he apparently decided against the move. In addition to a self-pardon being questionably unconstitutional, any clemency for the former president and his family would require them to admit they committed crimes they have not yet been charged with.
While Trump decided against becoming the first president to ever pardon himself, the fact that he decided to give clemency to so many of his allies might pose some issues.
President Bill Clinton faced both congressional and criminal investigations for giving out 140 pardons and commutations on his final day in office in 2001, though notably, no wrongdoing was ultimately found.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)
GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert Accused of Leading Capitol Tour Before Insurrection
- Rep. Steve Cohen told CNN Monday that he and another lawmaker personally saw GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert guiding a “large” group of people around the Capitol days before the insurrection.
- Numerous representatives have said they saw GOP members leading an unusual amount of tours before the riots. They also said some of the visitors were involved with the rally that preceded the attack.
- Boebert preemptively denied giving tours to insurrectionists last week before any official accused her by name.
- She reiterated that denial in a statement responding to Cohen’s accusations and claimed that she had only ever given a tour to members of her family.
Rep. Cohen’s Claims
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tn.) said Monday that he and a fellow Democratic member of Congress personally witnessed Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Co.) leading a “large” group of people around the Capitol complex in the days before the violent attacks on Jan. 6.
While speaking on CNN, Cohen said that he and Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) “saw Boebert taking a group of people for a tour sometime after the 3rd and before the 6th.”
“I don’t remember the day we were walking in a tunnel and we saw her and commented who she was and she had a large group with her,” he continued. “Now whether these people were people that were involved in the insurrection or not, I do not know.”
Notably, Cohen said he did not know who was in the group or if they were part of the attack. That fact was also echoed by Yarmuth, who confirmed in a statement that he did see Boebert with a group of people around her but added that he “has no knowledge of who they were or if they were with her.”
Over the last few weeks, dozens of Democrats have been demanding that officials investigate whether or not Republican lawmakers aided in the riots. Last Tuesday, Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) told reporters she saw some of her GOP colleagues leading “reconnaissance” tours of the Capitol with people who she later saw during the riots.
The following day, 31 House Democrats signed a letter claiming they and some of their staffers “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups” visiting the Capitol on Jan. 5.
“The visitors encountered by some of the Members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day,” they wrote. “Members of the group that attacked the Capitol seemed to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex.”
Boebert’s Checkered Record
Until Monday, no lawmakers had named any of the members involved in the alleged tours, but many outlets and political analysts both implicitly and explicitly tied Boebert to the accusations.
In her roughly two-week-long tenure as a member of Congress, the young Republican has received significant heat for her role in the insurrection among other recent, controversial moves.
Last week, Boebert was temporarily banned from Twitter and faced numerous calls to resign for tweeting out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s location during the insurrection.
She has also been widely criticized for publicly announcing she would bring her gun to the Capitol complex, refusing to have her bag searched after she set off a metal detector, and voting to invalidate millions of votes by objecting to the certification of the electoral college.
In fact, Boebert has faced so much scrutiny that she preemptively denied giving tours to insurrectionists last week, even before anyone directly named her. At the time, she issued a statement saying she has only ever given a tour to her children, husband, mother, aunt, and uncle.
Boebert reiterated those claims in a letter to Cohen Monday, where she called his remarks “categorically false.”
“I have never given a tour of the U.S. Capitol to any outside group,” she wrote. “As I previously stated, I brought my family to the Capitol on January 2nd for a tour and on the 3rd for pictures to commemorate the day I was sworn in as a Member of the U.S. Congress.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNN) (CPR News)
Washington, D.C. Ramps Up Security Before Inauguration
- Officials in Washington are ramping up security measures and imposing heavy restrictions ahead of the inauguration Wednesday.
- The National Mall has been closed down since Friday, barricades have been put up all over the city, car traffic has been limited, and many public transit routes have also been shut down.
- Around 25,000 National Guard troops have been deployed from across the country, and the FBI is vetting all of them due to concerns of an insider attack.
- Security has also been significantly increased in many state capitals nationwide following calls for armed protests in all 50 states, but so far, most of the protests at statehouses have been peaceful and exceptionally small.
Capitol Increases Security Measures
With two days to go until the inauguration, security has been massively ramped up in the nation’s Capitol.
While the inauguration is usually a high-security event, Washington has now instituted security measures not seen since the Civil War following a Jan. 6 insurrection attempt on the U.S. Capitol. Intelligence agencies have since warned about more threats of violence.
In an unprecedented move, the National Park Service announced Friday that the National Mall — which usually hosts massive crowds during the inauguration — will be closed until at least Thursday. The inaugural ceremony itself will also be scaled down due to both security threats and the pandemic.
Various barricades ranging from small metal barriers to tall fencing reinforced with heavy concrete blocks have been set up around the Mall and in other parts of the city, such as at federal buildings and businesses.
The Capitol complex itself, which will be entirely shut off to the public on Wednesday, is currently surrounded by a 7-foot fence topped with razor wire.
Over a dozen metro lines will be shut down and more than two dozen bus routes will be detoured around the security perimeter. Car traffic in most of the city will be either banned entirely or limited exclusively to residents and businesses only. Several bridges that connect DC to Virginia will also be shut down, and all street closures are subject to change or to be extended at the discretion of the Secret Service.
In addition to the wide variety of military and law enforcement personnel who are normally involved in inauguration security, around 25,000 National Guard troops have also been deployed from all across the country.
That is nearly two and a half times the number present for previous inaugurations. Notably, officials have been vetting all 25,000 coming to Washington because they are worried about an insider attack.
States Ramp Up Security
It is not just D.C. that is ramping up security. There have been mass deployments of the National Guard and other law enforcement officers to state Capitols all across the country. According to The New York Times, 19 states have deployed their National Guards following calls for armed protests in all 50 states.
So far, most of the activity that has been seen around statehouses are small, peaceful demonstrations by a few people, some of whom are armed. Even the most attended rallies had two dozen people or less.
Notably, all of the largest demonstrations documented so far have reportedly been held by or included members of the Boogaloo Boys, a far-right group that wants to start a second Civil War. The group showed up in some of the highest numbers in front of the Capitol buildings in Ohio, Michigan, and Utah.
As was the case with all of the other demonstrations so far, the protestors have been far outnumbered by security officials — and in some cases, spectators.