Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped into President Donald Trump in a private meeting with Democrats Wednesday, just hours after the two jousted in a silent sparring match during his State of the Union address.
Pelosi, addressing her caucus Wednesday morning, said she felt “liberated” after defiantly ripping up Trump’s speech for the world to see, tearing up each page as she stood behind the president after he concluded his annual address.
“He shredded the truth, so I shredded his speech,” Pelosi told House Democrats, according to multiple sources in the room. “What we heard last night was a disgrace.”
Democrats gave Pelosi a standing ovation after she concluded her remarks, coming just hours before the Senate will vote to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial. The California Democrat then went on to salute all seven House impeachment managers by name, according to attendees.
"She said that he disgraced the House of Representatives by using it as a backdrop for a reality show," Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said leaving the meeting.
Pelosi’s remarks follow the latest turn in the long-running feud between the two party leaders, which played out during Trump’s annual address in front of the Congress and millions of viewers.
Before Trump even started the hyper-partisan speech — which frequently resembled one of his campaign rallies — the two got off on a sour note when the president seemingly snubbed Pelosi by refusing to shake her hand.
For the next 80 minutes, Trump delivered a speech that included a highlight reel of his presidency with a few reality show twists thrown in. The move enthralled Republicans, who lavished Trump with praise and disgusted Democrats, who hissed and booed, later calling Trump’s speech a disgrace.
Pelosi's dramatic gesture — tearing up the speech on national television — was in some ways uncharacteristic for the speaker, who is known for being publicly restrained and has urged her members to respect the office of the presidency.
But it’s also an indication that Pelosi has lost patience with Trump post-impeachment, with the president unwilling to acknowledge any wrongdoing even as some Republicans condemn his behavior.
Speaking to the caucus, some Democrats said Pelosi appeared distraught and frustrated by Trump's speech.
Pelosi specifically called out Trump’s decision to award the divisive conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the middle of the speech.
“He dishonored the State of the Union as an institutional practice,” said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.). “It was kind of outright pandering to his base. It was just a disgraceful display.”
House Republican leaders were quick to condemn Pelosi — while offering no criticism of Trump's handshake snub — calling her late-night response a petty tantrum. Trump himself weighed in in his own way, rapidly retweeting more than a dozen people criticizing Pelosi's actions, many with the hashtag "PelosiTantrum" on Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile, the speaker's top lieutenants were quick to come to her defense.
"As far as I'm concerned, a shredder wasn't available, so she did what she needed to do," House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) told reporters after the caucus meeting.
"When someone won't even shake the hand of the speaker of the House, it tells you where their priorities lie," added Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Katherine Clark (D-Mass.).
Adam Cancryn contributed to this report.