US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has sharply rebuked a reporter who challenged her about her motives in proceeding with impeachment against President Donald Trump.
Only a few hours earlier, Pelosi had instructed the Judiciary Committee to write articles of impeachment - formal charges - against Trump for pressuring Ukraine into investigating Democrat Joe Biden and resisting Congress' probe.
The House speaker insisted she brought impeachment proceedings because Trump's conduct and the Constitution left the House no choice.
"The president's actions have seriously violated the Constitution," Pelosi said from the speaker's office at the Capitol. "He is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit. The president has engaged in abuse of power, undermining our national security and jeopardising the integrity of our elections."
But as the famously poised California Democrat began exiting a news conference two hours later, a reporter asked, "Do you hate the president, Madam Speaker?"
Pelosi stopped near the edge of the podium, jabbed a finger and said tersely: "I don't hate anybody."
She returned to the podium after the reporter's question and finished by pointing a thumb toward herself.
"Don't mess with me when it comes to words like that."
"This is about the Constitution of the United States and the facts that lead to the president's violation of the oath of office. And as a Catholic I resent your using the word hate in a sentence that addresses me."
Trump tweeted that Pelosi "just had a nervous fit."
"She says she 'prays for the President.' I don't believe her, not even close," he added.
House leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted, "Pelosi and the Democrats are clearly are blinded by their hate for the President."
Trump knows her finger-pointing well, most recently during a White House meeting in which she stood, pointed at him and said, "all roads lead to Putin," Russia's president - and walked out.
In January, she forced Trump to re-open the government without the border wall he was demanding. She allowed him into the House chamber to deliver the traditional State of the Union speech, but stole that show by clapping sideways and smirking at Trump from her seat above and behind him.
Australian Associated Press