The bitter feud between Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi has escalated this week as the pair trade barbs about each other’s mental stability.
The war of words has grown steadily fiercer in the wake of the longest government shutdown in US history, with a series of confrontations between the pair both in private and in public.
On Wednesday, Trump “abruptly cut short a meeting with Pelosi and her counterpart in the Senate, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer”, the BBC reports. His grand exit just minutes into their meeting led Pelosi to claim that she was “concerned” about the president’s state of mind.
“I wish that his family or his administration or staff would have an intervention for the good of the country,” she said in a response to a question at her weekly press briefing on Thursday. “Maybe he wants to take a leave of absence.”
Trump was previously “feared by Democrats and Republicans alike for his personal attacks that always seem to supremely rile his opponents”, but he may have “finally met his match” in Pelosi, says The Guardian.
The newspaper argues that the House speaker is “doing to Trump what he has done to so many others. She lifted up his skin, got under it, and began scratching furiously.”
And she got a reaction. In the latest of his “increasingly livid reactions”, the president appeared to be “struggling for traction in a face-to-face political fight”, says CNN.
“I tell you what, I have been watching her for a long period of time, she’s not the same person, she’s lost it,” Trump said of Pelosi during a press conference at which he referred to the Democrat as “Crazy Nancy”.
The US leader claimed that his opponent was “disintegrating before their eyes”, as well as denying that he was “screaming and yelling” during their meeting, and describing himself – not for the first time – as a “stable genius”.
So who is the woman who has got Trump so rattled?
Who is Nancy Pelosi?
Pelosi is a 78-year-old Baltimore-born politician who entered politics as a congressional representative for California’s 5th District in 1987, a position she still holds.
She served as speaker of the US House of Representatives from 2007 to 2011 under Barack Obama, becoming the first woman in the role – and the highest-ranking elected woman – in the nation’s history.
What does she do now?
The midterm elections last November saw the Democratic Party retake control of the House of Representatives, which had been lost to the Republicans in 2011. In January this year, Pelosi was once again sworn in as speaker.
But rather than helping pass legislation put forward by President Obama, her job this time around is – in her own words – “restoring the Constitution’s checks and balances to the Trump administration”. And that can involve blocking bills with which her party doesn’t agree.
Indeed, Pelosi led the opposition to a request by Trump for $5.7bn to build his proposed border wall, causing the government to enter a 35-day shutdown that saw hundreds of thousands of federal employees going without pay.
Why did she start feuding with Trump?
The government shutdown, which finally ended on 25 January, birthed what The Atlantic calls a “vengeful” rivalry between the pair.
During the stoppages, Pelosi wrote a letter to the president saying that owing to security concerns amid staffing shortages, he would be unable to present the annual State of the Union address.
In response, Trump issued a letter to Pelosi stating that he was cancelling her previously undisclosed trip to Afghanistan and Brussels on official business.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Pelosi got “the better of the relationship” by keeping Democrats “united” amid the shutdown, while Trump faced criticism for failing to navigate the impasse successfully after touting himself as a great “deal-maker” during his presidential campaign.
What does this fight mean?
The ongoing rivalry between the pair has “helped Pelosi out of a delicate political spot”, amid growing pressure from a Democratic caucus “impatient with her reluctance to open an impeachment inquiry against Trump”, reports CNN. His attacks are “unifying her coalition”, the news site adds.
However, it seems highly unlikely that Pelosi will guide this conflict toward impeachment.
In a closed-door conference this week, the Democrat reportedly urged her 235-member caucus to “back down from calls to oust Trump from office”, arguing that doing so would be playing into the president’s hands. Pelosi said that Trump “wants” impeachment proceedings to begin in order to brand her party as extreme and overreaching.
“The White House is just crying out for impeachment,” she said. “That’s why he flipped.”
The Sydney Morning Herald says that Pelosi has been “preparing for this fight for decades”, while Trump “landed in the White House almost by accident, never planned for his presidency, and still avoids the hard work of absorbing briefings and formulating policies”.
“She knows how to do her job,” the newspaper adds. “Him, not so much. It’s not a fair fight.”