Donald Trump’s simmering feud with Democratic congresswoman Nancy Pelosi flared up in remarkable fashion during his State of the Union address as each politician snubbed the other while the American public watched on.
The US president went first, declining to shake the outstretched hand of Ms Pelosi, the Democratic House speaker who launched the impeachment drive against him, as he arrived at the podium to deliver his speech.
Ms Pelosi got her revenge around 75 minutes later, when as Mr Trump stood receiving applause in the room after his finale she picked up a copy of his address and ripped it in two.
The moments, clipped up and circulating on social media within minutes, undercut Mr Trump’s attempt to ignore impeachment, which comes to a head with a vote on Wednesday, and lay out his accomplishments in office.
Touting what he called the “great American comeback”, Mr Trump, with half an eye on November’s election, claimed credit for the booming US economy, legislative victories and the killing of Isil leader Abu al-Baghdadi.
There was a showman’s flourish as he used invited guests to underscore priorities, from Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Not one of the 5,917 words in the text of Mr Trump’s speech circulated by the White House was “impeachment”, an issue that has hung over his presidency for almost five months. He is expected to be acquitted on Wednesday.
Instead Mr Trump used the yearly address, delivered to the US House of Representatives before an audience including cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, senators and congressmen, to lay out his argument for a second term.
“Three years ago, we launched the great American comeback. Tonight, I stand before you to share the incredible results,” Mr Trump said.
“Jobs are booming, incomes are soaring, poverty is plummeting, crime is falling, confidence is surging, and our country is thriving and highly respected again.
“America’s enemies are on the run, America’s fortunes are on the rise, and America’s future is blazing bright.”
The economy was put front and centre, with Mr Trump spending the first 15 minutes breaking down the realities of what the growth he has overseen means for Americans.
Seven million jobs have been created since the 2016 election and the unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest level in more than half a century, the president noted.
He said seven million Americans had come off food stamps – financial help from the government to buy food – and 10 million people had been “lifted off” welfare.
The economy is widely seen as the ace in Mr Trump’s hand as he seeks re-election on November 3. “The years of economic decay are over,” he declared.
Attempting to neutralise a healthcare issue that had hurt Republicans in the 2018 midterms, Mr Trump said: “We will always protect patients with pre-existing conditions – that is a guarantee.”
He also vowed to continue fighting the opioid crisis, bring US troops home from the Afghanistan War, urged congressmen to pass a law banning late-term abortions and talked up his border wall and tough approach to illegal immigrants.
As is tradition, the president’s speech triggered dozens of standing ovations from those in the room, more often than not Republicans who at times broke out into chants of “four more years!” and “USA!”
Yet it was Mr Trump’s interactions with Ms Pelosi, rather than a familiar list of policy priorities and accomplishments, that triggered the headlines.
The pair have repeatedly clashed since the Democrats reclaimed the majority in the House in November 2018, making Ms Pelosi the House speaker.
Since then the pair have had a bruising stand-off over border wall funding that shutdown the government, had tense meetings that have resulted in one or the other side storming out and – most recently – squared off over impeachment.
It was Ms Pelosi who ultimately made the decision to pursue impeachment over the Ukraine scandal.
Mr Trump became the third US president in history to be impeached before Christmas, putting a black mark next to his legacy. He in turn has called her the worst House speaker in history.
When Mr Trump stepped up to the podium to deliver his speech he handed a copy to Mike Pence, the US vice president, and Ms Pelosi, who both have seats just behind the president for the State of the Union.
When Ms Pelosi then held out a hand, Mr Trump turned away. She raised the hand briefly in apparent surprise.
At the end of the speech, Ms Pelosi, dressed all in white along with more than 40 Democratic congresswomen in honour of the suffrage movement, gave her own snub.
With Mr Trump receiving applause, she took sheets of paper which appeared to be the speech and ripped them down in the middle. The action could be seen in camera shot, with Ms Pelosi just above the president’s left shoulder.
The move triggered a backlash from Republicans, who questioned what the response would have been if the Republican House speaker during Barack Obama’s presidency had done similar.
Ms Pelosi later tweeted a photograph of Mr Trump refusing to shake her hand, writing: “Democrats will never stop extending the hand of friendship to get the job done for the people.”
During the speech Mr Trump announced that Rush Limbaugh, the famous conservative talk show host whose combative style has made him a bogeyman for liberals, had been awarded America’s highest civilian honour.
Mr Limbaugh, who announced on Monday he had stage-four cancer, was watching in the House and rose, beating his hand against his heart. Melania Trump, the president’s wife, then put the the Presidential Medal of Freedom around his neck.
Another unexpected guest was Mr Guaido, whose claim to be Venezuela’s real president rather than Nicolas Maduro has been backed by the Trump administration. He stood, raised his right hand and bowed his head when referenced by the president.
There was one unexpected moment when a man in the public gallery shouted out ”what about victims of gun violence like my child” when Mr Trump vowed to protect the second amendment, which defends a right for Americans to “keep and bear arms”.
As he was escorted out of the room a handful of Democratic congresswomen rose, turned round and applauded.
Mr Trump, closing his address with an optimistic rhetorical flourish, said: “Our spirit is still young; the sun is still rising; God’s grace is still shining; and my fellow Americans, the best is yet to come!”