WASHINGTON (AP) – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi successively picked up pens lined up next to her and used them to sign part of her name on impeachment articles against President Donald Trump. Then she handed each signature pen to the assembled presidents and property managers who will be following the Senate case.
Crayons are an eye-catcher in Washington, which is often distributed on festive occasions. They can be seen framed and hung in lobbies across the city as trophies close to power. Trump has dealt with the tradition himself.
But Pelosi distributed the pens on a darker day when she signed the impeachment articles only against the third president in history.
White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham criticized Pelosi on Wednesday for both the pens and the speaker’s behavior that was too cheerful on social media for such a serious development.
“Nancy Pelosi’s souvenir pens were served on silver trays to sign the impeachment articles,” said Grisham tweeted, post a photo again. Pelosi, she wrote, “was so grim when she passed it on to people like prices.”
Pelosi’s signature sent the articles against Trump to the Senate for negotiation, which is expected to open on Thursday. The documents passed by the House of Representatives accuse the Republican president of abuse of power and obstruction to Congress for pressuring Ukraine to help him politically. Trump says the whole thing is a “joke” and claims that he is the victim of a political “witch hunt” led by Pelosi.
Before signing, the helpers set up two small trays with more than two dozen black pens decorated with Pelosi’s signature. She entered the room and sat down at a table with the documents and pens in front of her. Around them stood the House prosecutors and committee chairs who had worked on Trump’s impeachment. Pelosi picked up each pen, signed a little, and handed it to a legislator.
Sometimes she smiled.
Trump is familiar with this tradition. In a much-photographed ceremony in June 2018, he signed an order to end family separation at the U.S. border. He then handed over the pen to Kirstjen Nielsen, Minister of Homeland Security.
On December 22, 2017, Trump signed the Republican tax law in the Oval Office while Congress was paused. But Trump’s helpers brought a few pens with them anyway – so he tried to pass them on to reporters. Journalists cannot accept gifts from the people they represent.
The tradition didn’t start with Trump.
President Lyndon Baines Johnson gave away framed sets of the pens he used to sign his Great Society anti-poverty and racial injustice legislation. The recipients included the legislature and the White House press corps. A full set is still in the press work area behind the White House briefing room.
Associate press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.
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