The handshake that wasn’t | Trump snubs Pelosi, who rips up SOTU speech

President, House speaker have awkward exchanges

President Donald Trump delivered his third State of the Union address Tuesday night. Trump refused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's handshake prior to his speech. Pelosi led House Democrats in impeaching the president in December 2019. Trump invited several special guests to his speech ... Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido Tuskegee airman Charles McGee Kelli and Gage Hake Rush Limbaugh was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Congressional Democrats were uninspired by the president's speec

Yeah, that was awkward.

Audiences watching President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday evening didn’t have to wait long for what arguably became the story of the night.

After Trump was escorted into the House chamber and took his place behind the lectern, he presented Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with bound copies of his speech.

Pelosi, who led House Democrats in impeaching the nation’s 45th chief executive, offered her hand to Trump, who ignored the gesture and then returned to acknowledging congressional applause.

President Donald Trump turns after handing copies of his speech to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

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After Trump’s speech, which lasted about 90 minutes, Pelosi ripped her copy of the speech in two as the president left the dais.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tears her copy of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address after he delivered it to a joint session of Congress.

Credit: Patrick Semansky

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Credit: Patrick Semansky

Trump spent his third State of the Union address  touting his administration's accomplishments, which was met with rousing and standing GOP applause and stony silence from glued-to-their-seats Democrats.

Trump’s address was filled with historical firsts. He is the first sitting president running for reelection to deliver a State of the Union address while under a Senate impeachment trial. He also joins Bill Clinton as the second American president to deliver a State of the Union address while on trial for impeachment.

»Meet President Trump’s special State of the Union guests

Trump is set to be acquitted of all impeachment charges by the GOP-led Senate on Wednesday at 4 p.m. He did not mention his impeachment in his speech.

“America’s enemies are on the run, America’s fortunes are on the rise and America’s future is blazing bright,” Trump said. “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!”

»Meet the woman who delivered the Democratic rebuttal to SOTU

Setting a yardstick for success and then contending he’d surpassed it, Trump has now gone from an inaugural address that decried “American carnage” to extolling the “Great American Comeback,” offering the nation’s economic success as a chief rationale for a second term.

Trump spent much of the speech highlighting the economy’s strength, including low unemployment, stressing how it has helped blue-collar workers and the middle class.

Trump stressed the new trade agreements he has negotiated, including his phase one deal with China and the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement he signed last month.

»MORE: Georgia congressman joins handful of Democrats boycotting SOTU

Among Trump’s guests in the chamber: Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has been trying for months to win face time with Trump, his most important international ally.

The president offered Guaidó exactly the sort of endorsement he’s been looking for as he struggles to oust President Nicolás Maduro from power. Trump called Guaidó “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela.”

»MORE: Georgia Republicans applaud SOTU, some Democrats boycott

“Mr. President, please take this message back to your homeland,” Trump said. “All Americans are united with the Venezuelan people in their righteous struggle for freedom! Socialism destroys nations. But always remember, freedom unifies the soul.”

»MORE: Rush Limbaugh attends SOTU, receives Presidential Medal of Freedom

In an unprecedented move, Trump awarded conservative talk show king Rush Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during the speech. First lady Melania Trump presented the medal to Limbaugh in the House gallery.

Trump entered the night on a roll, with his impeachment acquittal imminent, his job approval numbers ticking upward and Wall Street looking strong.

While the White House said the president would have a message of unity, he also spent time on issues that have created great division and resonated with his political base. He attacked Democrats’ health care proposals for being too intrusive and again highlighted his signature issue — immigration — trumpeting the miles of border wall that have been constructed.

He also dedicated a section to “American values,” discussing efforts to protect “religious liberties” and limit access to abortion as he continues to court the evangelical and conservative Christian voters who form a crucial part of his base.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.