President Donald Trump will deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday at 9 p.m. EST. Refresh here for updates.
Republicans in both chambers are hoping the president will highlight his accomplishments and offer his vision for the country’s future. But, they do have one subject they hope he won’t talk about: Impeachment.
Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said if he were the president, he wouldn’t bring up the subject.
Cramer said he “wouldn’t do it” but explained that he’s “more of a traditional political strategist,” noting Trump is a different type of politician.
“I’m not going to advise the President on any of that because he’s going to do whatever he wants to do,” Cramer added. “If I was writing the speech or delivering it, I wouldn’t include it but I’m doing neither of those two things, and Donald Trump has been very successful being Donald Trump.”
Some Republicans were more blatant in their thoughts on the subject being part of Trump’s address.
“My advice would be that in the State of the Union he should move on,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn, told Politico. His colleague Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., agreed. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for him to bring it up,” he said.
Many said they believed the president had a number of accomplishments to flaunt and they hoped he would highlight them instead.
“I hope he focuses on the great achievements economically, both domestically and abroad, fighting terrorism, taking out Soleimani and the continued efforts there,” said Rep. Ben Cline, R-Va.
– Savannah Behrmann, Christal Hayes and Nicholas Wu
Trump gets chatty with news anchors
While President Donald Trump called in a group of news anchors Tuesday to discuss the State of the Union, he was quite chatty about other topics – including John Bolton, Rush Limbaugh, the fall presidential debates, and impeachment.
Trump said he did not expect to mention impeachment during his State of the Union address, but would have more to say on the topic after the Senate renders its verdict on Wednesday afternoon.
No specific event is scheduled, and administration officials said they did not know if Trump’s reaction to the verdict would involve a speech, a news conference, or some other kind of event.
Trump told the anchors he will likely participate in debates with his Democratic opponent, despite his concerns that the organizing Commission on Presidential Debates has too many “Never Trumpers,” according to two people familiar with the discussion.
As for Bolton, Trump said the former national security adviser has turned on him with a book filled with false allegations. Trump said his administration is trying to block Bolton’s book because it contains classified information, but he did not sound optimistic about that.
He also mocked Bolton for wanting to be referred to as “Ambassador.”
– David Jackson
Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido and Limbaugh among SOTU guests
Among the list of White House guests for Tuesday is Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is wrapping up a two-week global tour as he tries to revive an unsuccessful bid to oust the country’s current sitting president, Nicolas Maduro, according to a senior administration official.
Guaido appeared at a rally in Miami Saturday in his effort to shore up support in unseating the socialist leader. Nearly 60 countries – including the U.S. – have recognized Guaido as the leader of Venezuela but the Maduro government remains in power. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., shared his excitement over Guaido’s appearance on Twitter Tuesday.
Longtime conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh is also expected to attend Tuesday’s speech, a senior administration official said, a day after the 69-year-old announced he has been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer on his radio show.
President Trump told television anchors at a private lunch ahead of tonight’s speech he plans to award the conservative talk show host the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian award in the U.S.
After Monday’s announcement, Trump tweeted his well wishes to Limbaugh, calling him a “great guy” and a “fantastic political talent.”
-Courtney Subramanian and David Jackson
Democratic women wearing white for address
Dozens of Democratic lawmakers will strut into the House chamber this evening wearing all white in a message to the president.
“Today, we stand united to speak out against President Trump’s backwards agenda, which seeks to set our women and attack the foundation that was built by the women pioneers of this country,” Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., said at a press conference hours before Trump’s address.
Lawrence, who co-chairs Democratic Women’s Caucus – which organized the effort to wear white – noted that the color choice was also meant to honor the women’s suffrage movement that led to the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, which will be 100 years old this year.
She highlighted the women who struggled for equality throughout history and added that “the battle continues,” specifically highlighting women’s right to reproductive healthcare.
Donning white for the occasion is nothing new. House Democratic women wore all white in past years during Trump’s State of the Union addresses.
“This is a sign of women empowerment and unity,” Rep. Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y. said as she walked outside the House chamber. “It is important for everyone, including the president, to understand that we play an important role here in the Congress and elsewhere.”
Hillary Clinton also wore white when she accepted the nomination for president at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in honor of the women’s suffrage movement. And Geraldine Ferraro wore white when she accepted the nomination to become the first female candidate for vice president for a major American political party at the 1984 Democratic convention.
— Christal Hayes
What Trump’s speech will outline tonight
Trump will outline his presidential victories in a national address from the same chamber where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi presided over his impeachment less than two months ago. The speech comes a day before Trump is expected to be acquitted in the Republican-led Senate, but the tense circumstances are hardly the first of their kind in presidential history.
Former President Bill Clinton found himself in the same situation during his 1999 State of the Union address amid his ongoing impeachment crisis. The Democratic president’s Jan. 19 speech came on the same day his White House legal team laid out his defense in his Senate trial, and weeks before he was acquitted on Feb. 12, 1999.
It’s unclear if Trump will broach the elephant in the room during his remarks, entitled “the Great American Comeback,” but aides say he’ll focus on his administration’s achievements. Clinton managed to steer clear of the topic in his 78-minute speech, instead declaring “America is working again.”
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“The promise of our future is limitless,” he told lawmakers. “But we cannot realize that promise if we allow the hum of our prosperity to lull us into complacency.”
Much like Trump, the outcome of Clinton’s impeachment was all but certain. Both presidents also saw a bump in their approval ratings and enjoyed a booming economy despite an impeachment trial looming over their presidencies.
The Republican-led Senate is set to vote on two articles of impeachment accusing Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress on Wednesday.
– Courtney Subramanian
AOC, Rep. Ayanna Pressley will skip Trump’s speech
Freshmen Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., announced on Twitter their plans to skip the annual State of the Union address in protest of President Donald Trump.
Ocasio-Cortez said Tuesday she wouldn’t “use my presence at a state ceremony to normalize Trump’s lawless conduct & subversion of the Constitution.”
“None of this is normal, and I will not legitimize it,” she wrote.
Pressley also weighed in on Twitter, posting an image of her in front of the Capitol, with the caption: “The State of the Union is hurting because of the occupant of the White House, who consistently demonstrates contempt for the American people, contempt for Congress & contempt for our constitution.”
“On the eve of Senate Republicans covering up transgressions and spreading misinformation, I cannot in good conscience attend a sham State of the Union when I have seen firsthand the damage Donald J. Trump’s rhetoric and policies have inflicted on those I love and those I represent,” she said.
The two congresswomen are part of a group of young progressive Democrats known as the “Squad,” along with freshmen congresswomen Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. They were part of a wave of women elected to the House of Representatives during the 2018 midterm election, two years after Trump won the presidency.
All four congresswomen have been vocal critics of Trump as well as a frequent target of the president on social media and at campaign rallies. Trump and Ocasio-Cortez tussled on Twitter in October after the president lashed out at her and other Democrats in a storm of tweets.
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After Trump referred to her as a “Wack Job,” the New York congresswoman shot back: “Better than being a criminal who betrays our country.”
At least five other House Democrats have said they plan to boycott the event, including Reps. Al Green, D-Texas; Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.; Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.; Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and Frederica Wilson, D-Fla.
– Courtney Subramanian
Black leaders hold ’emergency’ meeting ahead of SOTU
Just hours before Trump’s address to the nation and on the eve of a Senate vote on his impeachment,hundreds of black leaders, including African American members of Congress, gathered in the U.S. Capitol for an “emergency convening’’ to talk about strategies to undo some of the president’s policies.
The National Black Leadership Summit, hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus, was only steps from where Trump will give his State of the Union address later tonight.
Caucus members and civil rights leaders urged the crowd to mobilize their communities to register to vote and make sure they respond to the 2020 Census. Many warned of the impact of the administration’s policies, including reducing food assistance, under-funding the Census and pushing to restrict access to the polls.
“These are challenging times,’’ said Rep. Hakeem Jefferies, a Democrat from New York. “This is a backlash moment.”
Jeffries and Florida Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., are the first two African Americans to serve as impeachment managers.
In what at times felt like a church revival, Bishop William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign called out caucus members and others in the packed auditorium to demand action especially to help the poor.
“The coordinated coverup is a call to action,’’ Barber said to applause.
Barber urged the crowd to get 1 million organizers to register people to vote.
In addition to House members of the caucus, there were also guest appearances by Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey, both of whom dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
– Deborah Barfield Berry
Gallup: Trump hits new high of 49%
WASHINGTON – As President Donald Trump walks up to the dais in the House chamber for his State of the Union address on Tuesday, he will do so with some solid numbers at his back.
The president’s job approval rose to 49% in a Gallup poll Thursday, the highest point since he took office in 2017. Gallup found that Trump’s approval rating had climbed with both Republicans and independents.
Trump’s approval overall has remained consistent through the highs and lows of his presidency, showing most Americans have largely made up their mind about Trump. The Gallup poll is one snapshot in time, but it comes at a time when Trump is enjoying several advantages.
The president, who is up for reelection in November, is expected to emerge from the impeachment trial in the Senate with an acquittal on Wednesday. The U.S. economy continues to hum, with 3.5% unemployment – the lowest since the 1960s. And Democrats were plunged into disarray a day before the president’s speech when technical glitches in Iowa caused a delay in results and prompted the party’s presidential candidates to abandon the state without knowing who had won the caucuses.
When President Barack Obama addressed a joint session of Congress for his fourth time, in early 2012, Gallup pegged his approval at 45%. Obama’s rating would climb to near 60% by the end of that year.
“Whether the rise in Trump’s approval rating and the Republican Party’s image is being driven by a backlash against impeachment, the strong economy or other factors may become clearer in the near future,” Gallup wrote.
President Bill Clinton’s approval also shot up during his impeachment trial, Gallup wrote. Within two months of his acquittal, Clinton’s rating dipped back to pre-impeachment levels.
– John Fritze
State of the Union comes on eve of expected impeachment acquittal
Amid an impeachment trial but also a robust U.S. economy, President Donald Trump will deliver a State of the Union address Tuesday that will sound a lot like a victory lap.
The address, scheduled to kick off shortly after 9 p.m. EST, gives Trump a televised platform to tout his administration’s progress in an election year. White House aides describe the theme of this year’s address as “the Great American Comeback.”
As in past years, the president is certain to discuss the nation’s economy and 3.5% unemployment rate – the lowest number since the 1960s. He will touch on military spending, and will likely discuss the killing of Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian general responsible for the deaths of many American soldiers. He is also likely to discuss immigration and a recent reduction of border apprehensions.
But the clear wildcard for the speech will be Trump’s impeachment trial, which is expected to end in the president’s acquittal on Wednesday. Democrats say the president abused his power when he pressured Ukraine to open an investigation into Joe Biden in exchange for foreign aid. Most Republicans acknowledge that happened, but say it doesn’t rise to the level of removing the president from office.
State of the Union addresses are often partisan affairs, with members from the president’s party quick to their feet with the applause and the opposition party stone faced. When Trump takes the dais this time, he will be facing 230 lawmakers – 229 Democrats and one independent – who voted at least once to impeachment him.
Talk about a tough audience.
Any mention by Trump of the impeachment will be notable.
But, aides said, don’t count on it.
“I don’t think so,” White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said during an interview on Fox & Friends. “I think that this has gone on for too long and I think that if you look at the ratings, the American people are, frankly, bored of it.”
Another potential target for the president: The unexpected delay in the results of the Iowa caucuses Monday night. Candidates seeking the Democratic nomination left the Hawkeye State without knowing who had won. Trump and his aides gleefully mocked the Democrats over the hangups, calling it the “sloppiest train wreck in history.”
In his past three speeches to Congress, Trump has stuck tightly to prepared remarks, eschewing the kind of off-the-cuff tangents that are a hallmark of his campaign rallies. If he does so again Tuesday, look for a speech that mostly touts his accomplishments and proposes bipartisan ideas without a specific path for achieving them.
But if he goes off script, watch out. Anything is possible.
– John Fritze
Trump guests highlight school choice, immigration
The White House is dribbling out President Donald Trump’s guest list, starting with a Pennsylvania mother and daughter who highlight his call for school choice.
Stephanie Davis is “a hard working single mother who is hoping for the expansion of school choice to be able to send (daughter) Janiyah to a school that best serves her needs,” the White House said in a statement.
Janiyah, a fourth grader from Philadelphia, has “for too long” been “assigned to low-performing schools,” the White House added.
Last week, the administration announced two other guests: Raul Ortiz, a member of the Border Patrol recently promoted to deputy chief, and Tony Rankins, an Army veteran and recovering addict who found work doing construction as part of the administration’s “opportunity zone” program.
Other guests include Raul Ortiz of Texas, a deputy chief of the U.S. Border Patrol; Jody Jones of California, whose brother, Rocky Jones, was shot and killed by an immigrant in the country illegally; and Kelli and Gage Hake of Oklahoma. Army Staff Sergeant Christopher Hake – husband of Kelli Hake and father of Gage Hake – was killed in 2008 while serving his second tour in Iraq.
– David Jackson
SOTU: By the numbers
Trump’s address Tuesday is technically his third State of the Union. But it’s the fourth time he has stood up before a joint session of Congress to, well, detail the state of the union. That discrepancy has plagued headline writers since President Ronald Reagan’s first address in 1981, which he described as an “Address Before a Joint Session of Congress on the Program for Economic Recovery.”
Every president since Reagan has eschewed an official State of the Union address in their first year. After all, new presidents deliver an inaugural address right around the same time as when the State of the Union is usually given.
The Constitution requires the president “from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union,” but there’s no rule that requires the speech to be delivered in person. For decades, starting with Thomas Jefferson, the speech was delivered in writing. Jefferson said the in-person delivery smacked of the very monarchy his new nation had escaped from. But some historians think Jefferson just wasn’t that great of an orator, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Woodrow Wilson revived the in-person address in 1913.
George Washington’s first annual message was the shortest such speech, at 1,089 words, according to the Congressional Research Service. Jimmy Carter’s 1981 message was the longest written message, at 33,667 words (Carter was also the last president to deliver the message in writing). Bill Clinton’s 1995 address was the longest spoken address, at 9,190 words.
Trump’s speech last year (his prepared remarks) rang in at 5,196 words.
– John Fritze–
CNN excluded from briefing
In another skirmish in his long running war with the media, President Donald Trump excluded CNN from a traditional White House briefing of news anchors to preview the State of the Union address, officials said.
CNN spokeswoman Lauren Pratapas confirmed that CNN was not invited to attend.
The White House declined to comment.
For decades, presidents have lunched with network television anchors before the State of the Union to offer a preview of the speech. The sessions are considered off the record, but details often leak out.
Though Trump has denounced CNN for years, the network’s Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer attended last year’s lunch with Trump without incident.
– David Jackson