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President Donald Trump on Monday ripped into Democrats who held their applause during his first State of the Union address, saying the behavior could amount to "treason."
In a speech in Ohio promoting the GOP tax law and Republican midterm candidates, the president questioned why Democrats in Congress refused to clap during many moments of his speech. Most of the caucus sat stone-faced during Trump's address last week as he promoted Republican economic policies and pushed for immigration changes that Democrats largely oppose.
On Monday, the president lambasted Democratic lawmakers and called their behavior "un-American." He specifically pointed out a widely shared moment in which nearly all of a group of Congressional Black Caucus lawmakers did not react when Trump pointed out that the unemployment rate for black Americans was the lowest ever in December.
"You're up there, you've got half the room going totally crazy — wild, they loved everything, they want to do something great for our country," Trump said. "And you have the other side — even on positive news, really positive news like that — they were like death. And un-American. Un-American. Somebody said, 'treasonous.' I mean, yeah, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason? Why not! I mean they certainly didn't seem to love our country very much."
In a tweet Monday afternoon, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said "every American should be alarmed" by how Trump "is working to make loyalty to him synonymous with loyalty to our country."
Trump's loaded comments come at a particularly delicate time for cooperation between the two major parties. Already bitterly divided in the first year of Trump's term, Republicans and Democrats failed to agree on a spending bill last month and saw government funding lapse briefly.
Congress will have to strike yet another short-term spending agreement and get it to Trump's desk by Thursday to avoid a government shutdown this week.
The parties are also already locked in tense talks on a compromise immigration plan that they hope to pass before March 5. That date is when protections for hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants are set to expire after Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Democrats and many Republicans want to enshrine protections for the immigrants into law. Most GOP lawmakers seek increased spending for border security as part of a deal. Trump and conservatives are pushing for stricter limits on legal immigration that Democrats and some Republicans appear reluctant to accept.
Little trust existed in the talks even before Trump criticized congressional Democrats. The president has proven difficult to pin down on immigration, and senators on both sides of the aisle have been frustrated with the process of striking a deal with him.
Trump also made several calls for bipartisanship during the State of the Union address.