House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been
one of the president’s fiercest critics – she was the one who first launched
formal impeachment efforts last year. President Trump has frequently taunted
her as “Crazy Nancy”.
It was the first time the two had
come face-to-face since Nancy Pelosi stormed out of a White House meeting four
Before President Trump began speaking
at the podium in the well of the House, he appeared to snub the outstretched
hand of Nancy Pelosi, America’s most powerful elected Democrat.
The House speaker, critics noticed,
skipped the traditional introduction welcoming the president as a
When President Trump accused
Democrats of planning to force American taxpayers to provide unlimited free
healthcare to undocumented immigrants, Nancy Pelosi was observed twice
mouthing: “Not true.”
Nancy Pelosi stunned onlookers by
shredding a copy of the president’s remarks as he concluded.
She told reporters afterwards her
gesture was “the courteous thing to do, considering the
Nancy Pelosi did rise to applaud the
president more than once, including when he promoted his pet project of
infrastructure investment, a possible area of bipartisan co-operation.
President Trump struck an upbeat
note in a speech lasting one hour and 18 minutes that contrasted sharply with
his lament of “American carnage” in his 2017 inaugural presidential
In an implicit rebuke to his
predecessor Barack Obama, President Trump told his audience: “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!”
President Trump repeatedly swiped at
Democrats, including left-wing candidates such as Bernie Sanders, who are vying
to challenge him for the presidency.
As is tradition, President Trump
invited several special guests, including Venezuelan opposition leader Juan
Guaidó, military veterans and the brother of a man killed by an undocumented
In a move certain to infuriate
liberal critics, President Trump announced he would award the Presidential
Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, to firebrand conservative
radio host Rush Limbaugh, who revealed this week he has lung cancer.
First Lady Melania Trump bestowed
the honor on an emotional Rush Limbaugh as the president spoke.
A protester was escorted from the
chamber while President Trump defended gun rights. It was Fred Guttenberg, the
father of Jaime Guttenberg, a student killed in a mass school shooting at
Parkland, Florida, in February 2018.
Fred Guttenberg was a guest of Nancy
Each year after the State of the Union speech, a member of the main
opposition party is tasked with responding and this year it fell to Michigan
Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
The governor accused the president of failing to fix America’s problems.
She said: “Bullying people on
Twitter doesn’t fix bridges – it burns them.”
As they did last year, many female Democrats – including Nancy Pelosi – wore
white as tribute to the suffragettes who won the vote for US women a century
Several liberal Democratic lawmakers, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of
New York and Maxine Waters of California, boycotted President Trump’s address.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that she would “not use my presence at
a state ceremony to normalize Trump’s lawless conduct & subversion of the
Other left-wing Democrats, including Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, walked out
during President Trump’s speech.
As is traditional during the State of the Union, one member of the president’s
cabinet did not attend the address.
He or she remains at a secret location to make sure the government can
continue should calamity befall the nation’s president, vice-president and
other top leaders.
This time, that person, who is known as the designated survivor, was Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.
Democrats have announced the House will
vote on January 15 on sending articles of impeachment against President Donald
Trump to the Senate.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told
fellow Democrats she would also name the House managers who will prosecute the
case against President Trump in the Senate trial.
Nancy Pelosi has been withholding
the articles of impeachment in a row with Republicans over allowing witnesses.
Donald Trump was impeached by the
Democratic-led House last month.
The president is accused of abuse of
power and obstruction of Congress.
He denies trying to pressure Ukraine
to open an investigation into his would-be Democratic White House challenger
President Trump has been touting
unsubstantiated corruption claims about Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who
accepted a lucrative board position with a Ukrainian energy company while his
father handled American-Ukraine relations as US vice-president.
The impeachment trial by the Senate
will be only the third ever of a US president.
Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans
control the chamber 53-47, and are all but certain to acquit him.
Once the resolution is approved, the
House managers will walk to the Senate and formally present the articles of
impeachment in the well of the chamber, escorted by the sergeant-at-arms. The
articles of impeachment will be read out.
On January 14, Senate leader Mitch
McConnell met Republican senators behind closed doors to map out the ground
He said the trial was likely to
begin in earnest on January 21.
The first couple of days will
involve housekeeping duties, possibly later this week.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John
Roberts will be sworn in to preside, and he will administer an oath to all 100
senators to deliver “impartial justice” as jurors.
Lawmakers may hear opening arguments
next week. The House managers will lay out their case against President Trump,
and his legal team will respond.
The trial is expected to last up to
five weeks, with the Senate taking only Sundays off.
President Trump suggested over the weekend that he might prefer simply
dismissing the charges rather than giving legitimacy to the “hoax”
case against him.
Moderate Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah
have made clear they would oppose any such motion.
On January 14, the White House said the president is “not afraid of a
fight” in his trial.
Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said President Trump was in fact eager
for witnesses to testify that “this man did nothing wrong”.
One of the biggest sticking points between House Democrats and Senate
Republicans has been whether testimony will be allowed during the trial.
Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Mike Rounds said on January 14 the
Senate’s trial plan will guarantee votes on whether to call witnesses and hear
It takes just 51 votes to approve rules or call witnesses, meaning four
Republican senators would have to side with Democrats to insist on testimony.
The White House is understood to have identified several possible defectors
in the Republican ranks, including Susan Collins and Mitt Romney.
The others are Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Cory Gardner of Colorado
and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is retiring this year.
Republicans say that if witnesses are allowed, they may try to subpoena Joe Biden and his son, and the unidentified government whistleblower whose complaint about President Trump sparked the whole impeachment inquiry.
Nancy Pelosi seized the gavel as the House welcomed more women than ever
before in the 116th Congress.
As of January 3, 102 women serve in the House, an all-time high, including
36 newly elected members and a record 43 women of color.
While Republican women marked some firsts this past election season – like
Marsha Blackburn becoming the first female Tennessee Senator – the vast
majority of these new lawmakers are Democrats.
Among them are the first Muslim congresswomen – Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar – and the first Native American women to serve – New Mexico’s Debra Haaland and Kansas’ Sharice Davids.
President Trump opened the Oval Office meeting calling it a “great honor” to have Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi present, in their firstmeeting since Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in theNovember mid-term elections.
The meeting soon turned contentious as Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer argued that the Republican-controlled Congress could pass legislation before funding for some agencies was set to expire on December 21.
President Trump contended that it could only pass if it met his demands for more funding for his proposed borderwall along the US southern border.
He said: “If we don’t get what we want, one way or the other, whether it’s through you, through military, through anything you want to call, I will shutdown the government.
“And I am proud to shut down the government for bordersecurity. I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down.”
Veteran congressman John Conyers says he is stepping aside as top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee while harassment allegations are investigated.
The Michigan Democrat again denied the accusations, but said he was stepping down to clear his name.
A staff member alleges she was fired for refusing to “succumb to advances” from John Conyers.
A prominent civil rights leader, John Conyers first joined Congress in 1965.
The House Ethics Committee has launched an investigation into allegations of harassment and age discrimination involving staff.
On November 26, John Conyers, now 88, tweeted that he would like to remain as ranking member on the judiciary committee, but that he could not “in good conscience” allow the charges to “undermine” House colleagues.
Following talks over dinner at the White House, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said: “We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.”
Democrats have repeatedly said that they will block any legislation that contains funding for the border wall – a key campaign pledge of President Trump’s.
A White House statement was more muted, simply saying that there had been a “constructive working dinner” where tax reform, border security and DACA had been discussed.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders later disputed the Democrats’ account.
She tweeted: “While DACA and border security were both discussed, excluding the wall was certainly not agreed to.”
Chuck Schumer’s aide replied: “The President made clear he would continue pushing the wall, just not as part of this agreement.”
Republican support would be needed in any immigration legislation, as they have a majority in both the House and the Senate.
Republicans in the House have voted to weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), the body that investigates claims of misconduct against members of Congress.
Under the change, the independent OCE would come under the control of the House Ethics Committee.
Republican leaders in the House had opposed the change. The newly elected Congress meets later and the full House will vote on the proposed new rules.
However, Democrats reacted angrily to the vote.
The proposals, tabled in an amendment to House rules by Congressman Bob Goodlatte, would weaken the OCE’s oversight of matters such as conflicts of interests and financial impropriety.
If the new rules package is voted in – as is likely as the Republicans have a clear majority – the OCE would be renamed the Office of Congressional Complaint Review.
Under the proposals the new body would no longer be able to receive anonymous tip-offs, nor have a spokesperson, and would be under the supervision of the House Ethics Committee. Accusations against lawmakers would not be made public, as they are currently.
Any referral to law enforcement agencies would have to be approved by members of the committee.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, said the amendment to the rules would effectively destroy the OCE.
She said in a statement: “Republicans claim they want to <<drain the swamp>>, but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP [Republican Party] has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions.
“Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress.”
During his election campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly vowed to “drain the swamp” of Washington politics, claiming the federal government was corrupt and dysfunctional. He has not commented on the proposals for the ethics body.
While House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy were reportedly opposed to the amendment, Rep. Bob Goodlatte – chair of a House committee – introduced it anyway.
Rank and file members voted to support it in a closed session of the House Republican Conference.
There was no advance notice of the move, which came late on a federal public holiday.
The Office of Congressional Ethics was created in 2008 after a series of embarrassing scandals, including one involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff who was jailed for conspiracy and fraud.
Some felt that the House Ethics Committee had previously been held back from investigating wrongdoing by fellow members of the House of Representatives.
Nancy Pelosi – then leader of a Democrat-controlled House – spearheaded the efforts to reform oversight of Congress and shed light on the often murky world of Washington lobbying after the Abramoff scandal.
After their success in November’s elections, Republicans will control both houses in the new session of the US Congress.
Once Donald Trump is inaugurated on January 20, the GOP will control both Congress and the presidency for the first time since 2007.
According to the US constitution, “each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings”, so at the start of each new Congress, the House of Representatives has to approve its own rules and regulations.
President Barack Obama’s plans for a military strike on Syria have won backing from key US political figures.
Barack Obama said a “limited” strike was needed to degrade President Bashar al-Assad’s capabilities in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack.
Key Republican leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor both signaled their support for military action. Congress is expected to vote next week.
The UN earlier confirmed that more than two million Syrians were now refugees.
More than 100,000 people are thought to have died since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.
President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden met House Speaker John Boehner, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and the chairmen and ranking members from the national security committees in Washington on Tuesday.
John Boehner signaled his support for Barack Obama’s call for action, saying that only the US had the capacity to stop President Bashar al-Assad. John Boehner urged his colleagues in Congress to follow suit.
Eric Cantor, the House of Representatives majority leader, said he also backed Barack Obama.
President Barack Obama’s plans for a military strike on Syria have won backing from key US political figures
The Virginia Republican said: “Assad’s Syria, a state sponsor of terrorism, is the epitome of a rogue state, and it has long posed a direct threat to American interests and to our partners.”
Nancy Pelosi said she did not believe Congress would reject a resolution calling for force.
Barack Obama said that Bashar al-Assad had to be held accountable for the chemical attack and that he was confident Congress would back him.
He said he was proposing military action that would degrade Bashar al-Assad’s capacity to use chemical weapons “now and in the future”.
“What we are envisioning is something limited. It is something proportional,” the president said.
“At the same time we have a broader strategy that will allow us to upgrade the capabilities of the opposition.”
Secretary of State John Kerry, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and the top US military officer, Gen Martin Dempsey, are appearing before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
John Kerry told the panel that US allies such as Israel and Jordan were “one stiff breeze” away from potentially being hurt by any fresh chemical weapons attacks, and that US inaction would only embolden the Syrian president.
“This is not the time for armchair isolationism,” John Kerry said.
“This is not the time to be spectators to slaughter. Neither our country nor out conscience can afford the cost of silence.
“We have spoken up against unspeakable horror many times in the past. Now we must stand up and act.”
But John Kerry said again that there would be no American boots on the ground in Syria and that Barack Obama was “not asking America to go to war”.
Chuck Hagel said that “the word of the United States must mean something” and echoed John Kerry when adding: “A refusal to act would undermine the credibility of America’s other security commitments, including the president’s commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”
There will also be a classified briefing for all members of Congress.
Barack Obama will head to Sweden late on Tuesday for a G20 meeting sure to be dominated by Syria.
France has strongly backed the US plan for military action.
President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday: “When a chemical massacre takes place, when the world is informed of it, when the evidence is delivered, when the guilty parties are known, then there must be an answer.”
Francois Hollande called for Europe to unite on the issue, but said he would wait for the Congress vote.
Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng has arrived in New York with his family to begin a new life in the United States.
The blind human rights lawyer caused a diplomatic crisis when he escaped house arrest to arrive at the US embassy in Beijing last month.
Speaking outside New York University, where he has been offered a fellowship, Chen Guangcheng said China had dealt with the situation with “restraint and calm”.
But he raised concerns about ongoing reprisals against his family.
“Acts of retribution in Shandong have not been abated and my rights to practice law have been curbed – we hope to see a thorough investigation into this,” he said, referring to the province where he was kept under house arrest.
Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng has arrived in New York with his family to begin a new life in the United States
The activist thanked US officials and his supporters for their help and said he had come to the United States for “recuperation in body and spirit”.
Chen Guangcheng and his family were taken from a Beijing hospital, where he was being treated for a foot injury, to the capital’s airport on Saturday.
After weeks of uncertainty, the activist, his wife Yuan Weijing and their two children, aged eight and six, were handed passports and allowed to fly to Newark, New Jersey, where they arrived soon after 18:00 on Saturday.
Chen Guangcheng spent six days in the US embassy in Beijing last month after escaping house arrest in north-east China, sparking a diplomatic spat between the US and China.
Former House speaker Nancy Pelosi described his arrival in the US as “a milestone in the cause for human rights in China”.
“The courage of Chen Guangcheng to risk his life and livelihood to advocate for disadvantaged people in China is an inspiration to freedom-seeking people around the world,” Nancy Pelosi said.
The Congressional Executive Commission on China, set up to monitor human rights there in 2001, said it remained “deeply concerned that Mr. Chen’s supporters and family members who remain in China face the real threat of retaliation from Chinese officials”.
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