Scenes from the Capitol on a night of pomp, pageantry and politics for the State of the Union address:
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is advising Democrats to be on their better behavior during President Donald Trump’s speech — for strategy’s sake.
“Let the attention be on his slobbering self,” Pelosi told members during a closed caucus meeting, according to a Democratic aide in the room who was not authorized to discuss internal discussions publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
As for Democrats considering protesting Trump by leaving mid-speech, she warned: “If you want to walk out, don’t come in.”
Making a spectacle, she suggested, would only distract from the Democrats’ rebuttal.
Because of low expectations, Trump was likely to get high marks no matter what, Pelosi added.
“If his nose isn’t running and he isn’t burping, he did a great speech,” she said.
Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway tweeted: “As @POTUS in #SOTU aims to go high, @NancyPelosi goes super-low.”
Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., strolled through the Capitol before the speech with a guest who was attracting more attention than he was.
Tall and sporting a ponytail was Jayson Werth, an outfielder who played the last several years for the local Washington Nationals. Werth said he has an organic farm in Davis’ district.
Asked if he was a Trump supporter, Werth said he was a moderate.
“I’m just spreading my wings a little bit,” he said.
President Donald Trump’s staunchest fans in Congress are lining up along the House aisle to be photographed shaking his hand.
Around 30 House members and aides milled around the House floor two hours before the scheduled start of Trump’s State of the Union speech. Like any president, Trump was expected to walk down the center aisle shaking hands on the way to the rostrum to deliver his address.
Reps. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and Mark Walker, R-N.C., had coveted aisle seats, ensuring TV time — and a potential Trump handshake — when the cameras follow the president into the chamber.
Other early arrivals included Reps. Peter King, R-N.Y.; Billy Long, R-Mo.; Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J.; and Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, the GOP delegate from American Samoa.
Army Staff Sgt. Patricia King, the first person to have sex reassignment surgery paid for by the military, is attending the State of the Union address.
King, 37, is an 18-year Army veteran and infantry squad leader at Fort Lewis, Washington. King is the guest of Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III, who is giving the Democratic response.
Trump said in July that the government would not allow transgender people to serve in the military, reversing an Obama-era policy.
A federal appeals panel in the District of Columbia rejected Trump’s bid to start the ban Jan. 1, and the Pentagon has said it will allow transgender enlistment to continue as legal struggles play out.
King, who grew up in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, has twice been deployed to Afghanistan and has been awarded the Bronze Star.
A Republican congressman from Arizona said any “illegal aliens” who attend the State of the Union address as guests of Democrats should be arrested and deported.
More than 20 Democratic lawmakers have invited “Dreamers,” young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and are living here illegally. Congress has been unable to come up with a legislative solution for their legal status, which was at the center of the recent government shutdown.
“Of all the places where the rule of law needs to be enforced, it should be in the hallowed halls of Congress,” Rep. Paul Gosar tweeted. “Any illegal aliens attempting to go through security, under any pretext of invitation or otherwise, should be arrested and deported.”
A spokeswoman for Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “The speaker clearly does not agree.” The U.S. Capitol Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Among the high-profile Democrats who have invited Dreamers to the speech are House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California.
Gosar’s suggestion drew a quick rejoinder from Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who tweeted back: “This is why we can’t have nice things...”