US & Canada

Trump and Pelosi: The 'meltdown' photo showing Washington divides

A photo of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confronting the President Donald Trump at a reportedly explosive White House meeting has become a symbol of the deep divisions in Washington.

In the image, leading Democrat Ms Pelosi is standing up at a large table, surrounded by male congressional leaders and top military officials, pointing her finger towards the president, who is seated opposite her and appears stunned.

Afterwards, Mr Trump took to his preferred social media platform, Twitter, to share the photo along with the caption: "Nervous Nancy's unhinged meltdown".

Ms Pelosi - who has said it was Mr Trump that had the "meltdown" - hit back by proudly making the image her cover photo on both Twitter and Facebook.

Image copyright White House

The original tweet by Mr Trump has now been shared more than 24,000 times on Twitter, with scores of people weighing in on what it says about the two top US politicians.

It has spurred debates on everything from gender inequality in politics, to who would be the better president, but at its core are the disagreements over one of the most divisive political issues of the moment.

The Wednesday meeting was held to discuss the situation in northern Syria, where Turkey launched an offensive last week against Kurdish-led forces after the US suddenly withdrew its troops.

Just before the meeting, the US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to condemn the troop withdrawal.

What was said around that table?

A Democratic source told the Associated Press news agency that the meeting began with Mr Trump bragging about a "nasty" letter he had sent to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Ms Pelosi is then said to have mentioned the House vote and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer began to read the president a quote from former Defence Secretary James Mattis on the need to keep US troops in Syria to prevent a resurgence of the so-called Islamic State group, known as IS or Isis.

According to US media, Mr Trump cut Mr Schumer off, complaining that Mr Mattis was "the world's most overrated general".

As the meeting went on, the president is said to have told Ms Pelosi: "I hate Isis more than you do."

When asked by Mr Schumer if his plan was to rely on the Syrians and the Turks, the president said the plan was "to keep the American people safe". Ms Pelosi reportedly told him that this was a goal, not a plan.

Mr Schumer has said the president then called Ms Pelosi a "third-rate" politician. (She later said it was "third-grade".)

At that point, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer reportedly interjected, telling the president that such insults were "not useful".

The Democratic leaders then left the meeting early.

What happened afterwards?

Speaking to reporters following the meeting, Ms Pelosi described it as "most unsatisfactory".

"Two-to-one, the Republicans voted to oppose what he was doing in Syria. He just couldn't handle it so he just kind of engaged in a meltdown," she said.

Mr Schumer said the president had been "insulting, particularly to the speaker".

It was later that Mr Trump took to Twitter with a series of photos from the meeting, including the one of Ms Pelosi standing and pointing.

In a final photo, showing three empty seats following the walk-out, he labelled Ms Pelosi and Mr Schumer the "Do Nothing Democrats".

He then said Ms Pelosi "needs help fast".

"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," he wrote.

As the photo went viral, some used the hashtag #BeNancy, urging people to take inspiration from the House speaker, while others siding with the president tweeted #PelosiMeltdown.

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Media captionThe BBC's Martin Patience explains what's behind the conflict

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