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US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks about the impeachment inquiry of US President Donald Trump at the US Capitol in Washington, DC Image Credit: AFP

Washington: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lashed out in anger Thursday at a reporter who asked whether she hated President Donald Trump, prompting Trump to accuse her of having “a nervous fit.”

The flash of anger from Pelosi — “Don’t mess with me,” she told the reporter — came as she was leaving a news conference in which she had just finished discussing her decision to move forward with articles of impeachment against Trump.

“Do you hate the president?” James Rosen, a reporter for a conservative television network, Sinclair Broadcast Group, asked loudly as Pelosi made her way offstage in a television studio near the Capitol.

Pelosi whipped around to face Rosen, wagging her finger at him and saying, “Don’t accuse me,” as he explained that he was asking her to respond to Republicans’ claims that Democrats were pursuing Trump’s impeachment out of personal animus against him.

“This is about the Constitution of the United States and the facts that lead to the president’s violation of his oath of office,” the speaker said sharply after returning to the lectern to speak into a microphone and face the still-rolling cameras. “As a Catholic, I resent your using the word ‘hate’ in a sentence that addresses me. I don’t hate anyone.

“I was raised in a way that is a heart full of love and always pray for the president,” she continued. “And I still pray for the president. I pray for the president all the time. So don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.”

Less than an hour later, Trump posted his response on Twitter, saying he did not believe that she prays for him and insisting that she “hates” what he claimed as his accomplishments.

It was the latest bitter back and forth between the president and Pelosi, who have clashed repeatedly during the past three years, providing glimpses of a fractured relationship between two powerful Washington players that mirrors the nation’s deep political divisions.

Last month, during a contentious meeting about Syria policy at the White House, a photographer captured the moment Pelosi stood up from the table in the Cabinet Room, pointing sternly as she spoke to a scowling Trump.

The president tweeted the photograph, remarking: “Nervous Nancy’s unhinged meltdown!”

But Pelosi’s staff quickly posted it on her social media accounts, regarding it as a powerful image of the speaker standing up to a petulant president.

Another confrontation took place during a televised Oval Office meeting at the end of last year, when Pelosi fired back at Trump’s suggestion that, despite the Democratic victories in the 2018 midterm elections, she lacked political clout in the standoff over spending and a looming government shutdown.

“Mr President,” she said, “please don’t characterise the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats, who just won a big victory.”

A photograph of Pelosi leaving the White House after that meeting — in sunglasses and a rust-coloured coat — quickly went viral. She was also captured on television clapping sardonically at the president during his State of the Union address this year.

Trump has regularly attacked the speaker on Twitter.

Along with calling her “Nervous Nancy” after the Syria meeting in October, Trump also tweeted: “Nancy Pelosi needs help fast! There is either something wrong with her ‘upstairs,’ or she just plain doesn’t like our great Country. She had a total meltdown in the White House today. It was very sad to watch. Pray for her, she is a very sick person!”