The President’s Week of February 3, 2020

Trump’s State of the Union speech

On Tuesday President Donald Trump addressed the nation with his annual State of the Union speech. Even though the event was scheduled during an impeachment trial, Trump made no mention of it. He started with celebrating a booming economy, unemployment rate, and new job numbers, highlighting the fact that minorities and women were primary beneficiaries of economic growth.  The House Chamber was filled with roaring applause as Trump continued delivering his record on “great American comeback” confirming that indeed “the union is stronger than ever before.”

The President surprised many attendees with honoring 100-years Tuskegee airman, awarding Rush Limbaugh, a conservative talk-radio host who was recently diagnosed with lung cancer, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and reuniting an Army spouse with a husband who just returned from deployment. Trump also invited Juan Guaido, an opposition leader from Venezuela, and pledged the support of the United States to his nation: “Please take this message back that all Americans are united with the Venezuelan people in their righteous struggle for freedom.” Trump also made remarks on healthcare, immigration, and military accomplishments of his administration.

The State of the Union speech drew different responses. While Republicans cheered on President’s address, Democrats mostly remain seated during the event and seldom applauded. CBS polls confirmed that 97% Republicans, 82% Independents and 30% Democrats approved the State of the Union. However, a controversy unfolded at the conclusion of the speech – with Nancy Pelosi theatrically ripping up the speech she was given in advance by Trump.

Pelosi ripped up SOTU speech

            At the very end of the event, mere seconds after Trump uttered the last words, Nancy Pelosi stood up and tore the pages containing Trump’s speech in half. This opened a fiery discussion on both sides, with some praising it as something courageous and others condemning the Speaker for a classless response. Pelosi told the reporters that “it was the courteous thing to do considering the alternatives,” though she didn’t explain what those alternatives are.

A day later a video appeared showing that Pelosi preemptively ripping up the speech while Trump was delivering the State of the Union address. There were several pictures shared on social media with small tears on pages that Pelosi ripped at the very end.

The White House immediately condemned the Speaker on Twitter, stating that “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.” In turn, Pelosi responded that she “tore up a manifesto of mistruth.”

The end of the impeachment trial

            The final vote on the articles of impeachment fell on the day after the State of the Union. After five months of inquiries, witnesses’ testimonies, oral arguments, and subpoenas, the impeachment saga came to an end. The Senate acquitted the President, mostly along party lines. Democrats were united and voted “guilty” on both articles. Republicans showed unity only on voting on one article, obstruction of Congress, voting “not guilty.” Sen Mitt Romney (R-UT) broke with the party and joined Democrats on the vote on the second article, abuse of power. The final vote fell short of a needed two-thirds majority of the Senate.

US forces killed a terrorist in Yemen

Last week had an intense news cycle, and the information that a leader of al-Qaida leader was killed mostly went unnoticed. Qassim al-Rimi, a leader of al-Qaida in Arabian Peninsula, according to the Times, “was successfully eliminated” by American forces. He was involved in plotting attacks against the United States. Trump didn’t provide any details of the operation, stating that al-Rimi was killed during an air-strike. “We will continue to protect the American people by tracking down and eliminating terrorists who seek to do us harm,” said Trump during his statement.

Trump fires two key witnesses

            On Friday the news broke that the Trump administration ordered Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key witness in the impeachment trial, to be escorted from the White House. Vindman was fired from his position at the National Security Council, according to the Hill.  His attorney confirmed the news in a statement, accusing Trump of revenge for Vindman’s testimony and lamenting that his client “was asked to leave for telling the truth. His honor, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful.”

Yevgeny Vindman, his twin brother who also worked at NSC, was also removed from his position with no explanation. Vindman brothers were reassigned to the Department of the Army.

Gordon Sondland, another key witness and EU ambassador, was also recalled by Trump “effective immediately.” Several Republican lawmakers tried to persuade Trump not to fire Sondland, but the President made the decision to remove him from the ambassador’s position. “I am grateful to President Trump for having given me the opportunity to serve, to Secretary Pompeo for his consistent support, and to the exceptional and dedicated professionals at the U.S. Mission to the European Union. I am proud of our accomplishments. Our work here has been the highlight of my career,” Sondland said in a statement.

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