Trump to tout ‘great success’ and make plea to Democrats in State of the Union Address
Donald Trump promised on Monday that his first state of the union address would be “a big speech, an important speech”, “a very important speech on trade” and an invitation to Democrats to cooperate on immigration.
“We worked on it hard, covered a lot of territory including our great success with the markets and with the tax cut,” Trump said of the address, which he is to deliver before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday evening.
In a speech likely to be viewed in real time by tens of millions of Americans, Trump was also expected to call on Congress to commit US$1 trillion for infrastructure spending and to endorse US$25 billion in new spending on immigration measures including a border wall with Mexico.
“But hopefully the Democrats will join us, or enough of them will join us, so we can really do something great” on immigration, Trump told reporters at the White House.
In an earlier tweet previewing his message, he wrote that “our economy is better than it has been in many decades” and “we are on the right track”.
Trump’s anticipated message of an American resurgence is threatened, however, by his personal unpopularity and by a feeling among a majority of Americans – 56 per cent on average, according to pollsters – that the country is in fact on the wrong track.
“He shouldn’t boast, he should be ashamed,” said Robert Weissman, president of the Washington-based non-profit group Public Citizen.
A major shadow overhanging Trump as he mounts the House speaker’s rostrum will be special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating the president’s Russia ties and is said to be preparing to interview Trump himself. Trump has said Mueller will ultimately vindicate him.
With an approval rating after a year in office at least 10 points lower than that of any other US president in modern history, Trump planned to claim he was in the process of unifying the country, according to White House officials.
“I’d say to Congress the tone will be one of bipartisanship,” a senior administration official told reporters. “It will be very forward-looking.”
The state of the union address has traditionally been treated by the White House as an opportunity to advance a laundry list of policy priorities while capitalising on an unusually large audience. Barack Obama’s first address was watched by an estimated 48 million people.
Although Trump is notoriously unpredictable in press conferences and campaign settings, he has tended to follow his prepared text in relatively formal speeches, including in his inaugural address and in a speech to a joint session of Congress one year ago.
The state of the union address is attended by an unusual degree of pomp and circumstance, with members of the Supreme Court at hand, a grand entrance by the president and lawmakers from the president’s party typically interrupting the speech with repeated standing ovations.
Each lawmaker is permitted to invite a guest, in a tradition usually seized by the opposition as an opportunity for protest.
This year, multiple Democrats said they had invited immigrants who arrived in the country illegally as children, known as Dreamers. The Trump administration has moved to strip protections from the group put in place by Obama.
A Kansas congressman reportedly invited the widow of an Indian man killed in a hate crime in the state last year.
Trump also plans to speak about “building a safe, strong and proud America” and to touch on fair trade and national security issues, calling for a return “to clarity about our friends and our adversaries”, an administration official said.
There was no indication Trump planned to address allegations of sexual harassment against him or the anti-harassment #MeToo movement, or to speak about climate change, as he did in passing in a recent interview on British TV.
“There is a warming and there is a cooling …” Trump said. “I believe in crystal-clear beautiful water. I believe in just having good cleanliness and all.”
The address will be followed by a Democratic response delivered by the Massachusetts representative Joe Kennedy, grandson of Bobby Kennedy, the former US attorney general who was assassinated in 1968, and great-nephew of John F Kennedy, who was killed in 1963.
Television viewers still awake might later tune into the talk show hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, whose scheduled guest is Stephanie Clifford.
Better known by her professional name, Stormy Daniels, she is the porn performer whose story of an extramarital affair with the president, denied by him, emerged earlier this month.