Facing a divided Congress for the first time, President Donald Trump on Tuesday called on Washington to reject “the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution.” He warned emboldened Democrats that “ridiculous partisan investigations” into his administration and businesses could hamper a surging American economy.
Trump’s appeals for bipartisanship in his State of the Union address clashed with the rancorous atmosphere he has helped cultivate in the nation’s capital — as well as the desire of most Democrats to block his agenda during his next two years in office. Their opposition was on vivid display as Democratic congresswomen in the audience formed a sea of white in a nod to early 20th-century suffragettes.
Trump spoke at a critical moment in his presidency, staring down a two-year stretch that will determine whether he is re-elected or leaves office in defeat. His speech sought to shore up Republican support that had eroded slightly during the recent government shutdown and previewed a fresh defense against Democrats as they ready a round of investigations into every aspect of his administration.
“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” he declared. Lawmakers in the cavernous House chamber sat largely silent.
Looming over the president’s address was a fast-approaching Feb. 15 deadline to fund the government and avoid another shutdown. Democrats have refused to acquiesce to his demands for a border wall, and Republicans are increasingly unwilling to shut down the government to help him fulfill his signature campaign pledge. Nor does the GOP support the president’s plan to declare a national emergency if Congress won’t fund the wall.
Wary of publicly highlighting those intraparty divisions, Trump made no mention of an emergency declaration in his remarks. He did offer a lengthy defense of his call for a border wall, declaring: “I will build it.” But he delivered no ultimatums about what it would take for him to sign legislation to keep the government open.
“I am asking you to defend our very dangerous southern border out of love and devotion to our fellow citizens and to our country,” he said, painting a dark and foreboding picture of the risks posed to Americans by illegal immigration.
The 72-year-old Trump harkened back to moments of American greatness, celebrating the moon landing as astronaut Buzz Aldrin looked on from the audience and heralding the liberation of Europe from the Nazis. He led the House chamber in singing happy birthday to a Holocaust survivor sitting with first lady Melania Trump.
“Together, we represent the most extraordinary nation in all of history. What will we do with this moment? How will we be remembered?” Trump said.
The president ticked through a litany of issues with crossover appeal, including boosting infrastructure, lowering prescription drug costs and combating childhood cancer. But he also appealed to his political base, both with his harsh rhetoric on immigration and a call for Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the “late-term abortion of children.”
Trump devoted much of his speech to foreign policy, another area where Republicans have increasingly distanced themselves from the White House. He announced details of a second meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, outlining a Feb. 27-28 summit in Vietnam.
Trump and Kim’s first summit garnered only a vaguely worded commitment by the North to denuclearize. But the president said his outreach to Pyongyang had made the U.S. safer.
“If I had not been elected president of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea,” he said.
As he condemned political turmoil in Venezuela, Trump declared that “America will never be a socialist country” — a remark that may also have been targeted at high-profile Democrats who identify as socialists.
The president was surrounded by symbols of his emboldened political opposition. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was praised by Democrats for her hard-line negotiating during the shutdown, sat behind Trump as he spoke. And several senators running for president were also in the audience, including Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey.
Another Democratic star, Stacey Abrams, delivered the party’s response to Trump. Abrams narrowly lost her bid in November to become America’s first black female governor, and party leaders are aggressively recruiting her to run for U.S. Senate from Georgia.
Speaking from Atlanta, Abrams calls the shutdown a political stunt that “defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people, but our values.”
Trump’s address amounted to an opening argument for his re-election campaign. Polls show he has work to do, with his approval rating falling to just 34 percent after the shutdown, according to a recent survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
One bright spot for the president has been the economy, which has added jobs for 100 straight months.
“The only thing that can stop it,” he said, “are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations” — an apparent swipe at the special counsel investigation into ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign, as well as the upcoming congressional investigations.
The diverse Democratic caucus, which includes a bevy of women, sat silently for much of Trump’s speech. But they leapt to their feet when he noted there are “more women in the workforce than ever before.”
The increase is due to population growth — and not something Trump can credit to any of his policies.
The president also defended his decisions to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan over the opposition from national security officials and many Republican lawmakers.
“Great nations do not fight endless wars,” he said, adding that the U.S. is working with allies to “destroy the remnants” of the Islamic State group and that he has “accelerated” efforts to reach a settlement in Afghanistan.
IS militants have lost territory since Trump’s surprise announcement in December that he was pulling U.S. forces out, but military officials warn the fighters could regroup within six months to a year of the Americans leaving. Several leading GOP lawmakers have sharply criticized his plans to withdraw from Syria, as well as from Afghanistan.
Trump’s guests for the speech included Alice Marie Johnson, a woman whose life sentence for drug offenses was commuted by the president, and Joshua Trump, a sixth-grade student from Wilmington, Delaware, who has been bullied over his last name. They sat with Mrs. Trump during the address.
President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he will hold a two-day summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un Feb. 27-28 in Vietnam to continue his efforts to persuade Kim to give up his nuclear weapons.
Trump has said his outreach to Kim and their first meeting last June in Singapore opened a path to peace. But there is not yet a concrete plan for how denuclearization could be implemented.
Denuclearizing North Korea is something that has eluded the U.S. for more than two decades since it was first learned that North Korea was close to acquiring the means for nuclear weapons.
“As part of a bold new diplomacy, we continue our historic push for peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Trump said in his State of the Union address.
President Donald Trump is set to preach American unity in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, according to excerpts of his remarks released by the White House.
“The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican Agenda or a Democrat Agenda,” Trump will tell Congress in the prime-time speech. “It is the agenda of the American People.”
“Together, we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make.”
With the longest government shutdown in U.S. history over and another potential one around the corner next week, Trump will push for bipartisanship.
He also will say that his administration has moved more quickly than others of both parties to address problems that the president says have been long neglected, including criminal justice reform, trade deals, energy production, and the economy.
“We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens,” Trump will say, according to the excerpts.
“No issue better illustrates the divide between America’s working class and America’s political class than illegal immigration. Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards.”
Trump was not expected in his speech to declare a national emergency to give him the power to build a border wall without congressional approval, although he has threatened to do so
The president will also pledge to address prescription drug prices, saying, “It is unacceptable that Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same place. This is wrong, unfair, and together we can stop it.”
It will be Trump’s first time speaking to Congress since Democrats won back the House in November and reminders of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s new power will be impossible to miss.
The sergeant at arms will announce to “Madam Speaker” that the president has arrived in the House chamber and she will then take a prominent spot on the dais just over his left shoulder.
Even the timing of the speech was determined by the new reality in Washington, after Pelosi successfully pressured Trump to delay the address, originally scheduled for last month, until after the government shutdown ended.
The government is open now, but funding will run out again unless Congress acts before Feb. 15 and Trump’s demand for a wall on the border with Mexico remains a sticking point. The White House has said the president will use his speech to once again call for the wall.
Still, hours before delivering that message of unity, Trump slammedSenate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Twitter. And two days earlier, he sent an email to supporters with the subject line State of the Union Address” that said Democrats had taken “obstruction and radicalism to a whole new UN-AMERICAN level.”
Leaders in both parties traditionally select guests to bring to a presidents address to a joint session of Congress and the choices this year underscore the enormous gulf between Republicans and Democrats.
The president chose the family members of a couple allegedly killed by an undocumented immigrant and a teenager who has been bullied by his classmates because his last name is Trump.
Pelosi’s guests, meanwhile, include two transgender Army members, selected to call attention to the ongoing legal fight over Trump’s ban on transgender servicemembers, as well as Jose Andres, the activist-celebrity chef and vocal Trump critic.
Four of the nine members of the Supreme Court are expected to be in attendance, including its newest, Brett Kavanaugh, whose bitter 2018 confirmation battle is still fresh in many minds. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the 85-year-old liberal still recovering from cancer surgery, is not expected to attend. She skipped Trump’s previous two addresses to Congress as well.