Find unity, Trump urges Con­gress

He praises year’s gains, pushes in­fra­struc­ture

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

WASH­ING­TON — In his first State of the Union address, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Tues­day chal­lenged law­mak­ers to set aside their dif­fer­ences and join him in mak­ing good on prom­ises to fix the na­tion’s in­fra­struc­ture and im­mi­gra­tion sys­tems.

Speak­ing to a joint ses­sion of Con­gress, Trump hailed what he called the “ex­tra­or­di­nary suc­cess” of his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s first year and sounded notes of unity and in­clu­sion, steer­ing clear of the na­tion­al­ist rhetoric, po­lit­i­cal at­tacks and con­fronta­tional tone that have been his call­ing cards both as a can­di­date and as com­man­der in chief.

“Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our dif­fer­ences, to seek out com­mon ground, and to sum­mon the unity we need to de­liver for the peo­ple,” Trump said to ap­plause from many Repub­li­cans, who fre­quently stood in sup­port of his re­marks.

Mean­while, a clus­ter of about two dozen Democrats, in­clud­ing mem­bers of the Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus, re­mained planted firmly in their seats, star­ing sternly at the pres­i­dent and with­hold­ing ap­plause.

In the address, Trump em­pha­sized the achieve­ments of his first year in of­fice. He de­voted sig­nif­i­cant time to tout­ing the tax over­haul he signed at the end of last year, promis­ing that the plan will “pro­vide tremen­dous re­lief for the mid­dle class and

small busi­nesses.”

“Since we passed tax cuts, roughly 3 mil­lion work­ers have al­ready got­ten tax cut bonuses — many of them thou­sands of dol­lars per worker,” Trump said. “This is our new Amer­i­can mo­ment. There has never been a bet­ter time to start liv­ing the Amer­i­can dream.”

Trump pointed out small-busi­ness own­ers from Ohio who he said had just had the best year in the 20-year his­tory of their busi­ness. Be­cause of the tax over­haul, he said, their busi­ness is ex­pand­ing its space and hir­ing new work­ers.

While some em­ploy­ers have pub­licly cred­ited the tax cuts for re­cent bonuses that they’ve is­sued to work­ers, some of the money may have been paid out re­gard­less of the cuts be­cause of the na­tion’s tight la­bor mar­ket and strong econ­omy. The director of the White House Na­tional Eco­nomic Coun­cil, Gary Cohn, said on Fox News be­fore Trump’s speech that the 3 mil­lion fig­ure in­cludes “some type of tax bonus or wage in­crease or pen­sion in­crease” awarded to work­ers.

Cohn said more than 350 com­pa­nies have made “an­nounce­ments in di­rect re­flec­tion of what we’ve done with taxes.”

Trump also cel­e­brated the end of a pro­vi­sion from for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care law that re­quired many Amer­i­cans to ob­tain health in­sur­ance or pay a penalty. “The in­di­vid­ual man­date is now gone. Thank heav­ens.”

He spoke about po­ten­tial agenda items for 2018 in broad terms, in­clud­ing a call for $1.5 tril­lion in new in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing and part­ner­ships with states and the pri­vate sec­tor.

“To­gether, we can re­claim our great build­ing her­itage,” Trump said dur­ing his address. “We will build gleam­ing new roads, bridges, high­ways, rail­ways and wa­ter­ways all across our land. And we will do it with Amer­i­can heart, Amer­i­can hands and Amer­i­can grit.”

A more de­tailed pro­posal, which aides say will be un­veiled in the next week or two, would be the first mar­quee ini­tia­tive from Trump that will re­quire strong bi­par­ti­san sup­port in Con­gress to pass.

Tack­ling the sen­si­tive im­mi­gra­tion de­bate that has roiled Wash­ing­ton, Trump re­dou­bled his re­cent pledge to of­fer a path to cit­i­zen­ship for 1.8 mil­lion young il­le­gal aliens — but only as part of a pack­age that would also re­quire in­creased fund­ing for bor­der se­cu­rity, in­clud­ing a wall along the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der, end­ing the na­tion’s visa lot­tery method and re­vamp­ing the cur­rent le­gal im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem.

Some Repub­li­cans are wary of the hard-line el­e­ments of Trump’s plan, and it’s un­clear whether his blue­print can pass in Con­gress.

The pres­i­dent de­liv­ered his address as in­ves­ti­ga­tions are in­ten­si­fy­ing into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion and whether Trump or his as­so­ci­ates helped the ef­fort or ob­structed jus­tice. As he took the dais at the Capi­tol, Trump had the weak­est ap­proval rating of any pres­i­dent of the mod­ern era en­ter­ing his sec­ond year in of­fice, with 39 per­cent of Amer­i­cans ap­prov­ing of his per­for­mance in the job.

But he stepped be­hind the lectern still pop­u­lar with his most ar­dent sup­port­ers, who see him as an un­pre­dictable and en­ter­tain­ing com­man­der in chief who posts vit­riol on Twit­ter against the ad­vice of the White House staff, the Repub­li­can lead­er­ship and some close ad­vis­ers.

De­spite call­ing for bi­par­ti­san­ship Tues­day night, Trump has made ag­gres­sive at­tacks a hall­mark of his po­lit­i­cal style and the first year of his pres­i­dency, us­ing his Twit­ter ac­count to at­tack celebri­ties, Democrats and mem­bers of his own party and Cab­i­net. In politics, his first year was marked by sharp par­ti­san­ship, with Repub­li­cans us­ing spe­cial rules to force through the tax over­haul over Demo­cratic ob­jec­tions.

Last week, Trump used Twit­ter to taunt the Se­nate’s top Demo­crat, Charles Schumer of New York, for not agree­ing to a bi­par­ti­san im­mi­gra­tion deal. That tweet came af­ter a three-day gov­ern­ment shut­down, which ended when Democrats backed down.

“Cryin’ Chuck Schumer fully un­der­stands, es­pe­cially af­ter his hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat, that if there is no Wall, there is no DACA,” Trump wrote, re­fer­ring to De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals, the Obama-era pro­gram that granted pro­tec­tions

to young il­le­gal aliens who were brought to the U.S. as chil­dren.

Still, on Tues­day night, Trump struck an op­ti­mistic tone, cit­ing the re­silience of the Amer­i­can peo­ple in the wake of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters such as hur­ri­canes and wild­fires and the mass shoot­ing in Las Ve­gas.

“The state of our union is strong be­cause our peo­ple are strong,” Trump said.

Trump also played to the cul­ture wars, al­lud­ing to his pub­lic spat with pro­fes­sional ath­letes who led protests against racial in­jus­tice by kneel­ing dur­ing the na­tional an­them, declar­ing that pay­ing trib­ute to the flag is a “civic duty.”

On in­ter­na­tional af­fairs, Trump warned of the dan­gers from “rogue regimes,” such as Iran and North Korea, ter­ror­ist groups like the Is­lamic State, and “ri­vals” such as China and Rus­sia “that chal­lenge our in­ter­ests, our econ­omy and our val­ues.” Call­ing on Con­gress to lift bud­getary caps and boost spend­ing on the mil­i­tary, Trump said that “un­matched power is the surest means of our de­fense.”

And he high­lighted the de­ci­sion made early in his first year to with­draw the U.S. from an Asia-Pa­cific trade pact, declar­ing: “The era of eco­nomic sur­ren­der is to­tally over.”

Most pres­i­dents have made sure that there is a chore­ographed roll­out of po­lit­i­cal mes­sages and pol­icy pre­scrip­tions be­fore a State of the Union address. But Trump’s past week has been con­sumed by the rev­e­la­tion that he sought last year to fire Robert Mueller, the spe­cial coun­sel lead­ing a Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and by the abrupt de­par­ture Mon­day of the FBI deputy director, An­drew McCabe, whom the pres­i­dent had railed against as po­lit­i­cally cor­rupt.

At the same time, Repub­li­cans are push­ing to make pub­lic a classified memo that they say shows a po­lit­i­cally driven ef­fort by the FBI and the Jus­tice Depart­ment to ma­lign Trump with man­u­fac­tured al­le­ga­tions of links to Moscow. Democrats say the memo is a set of cherry-picked facts to dis­tort the ori­gins of the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion and un­der­mined the in­quiry.

Trump also listed what he views as other key suc­cesses dur­ing his first year in of­fice, in­clud­ing the con­fir­ma­tion of Neil Gor­such to the Supreme Court, the roll­back of reg­u­la­tions, a $1.5 tril­lion tax cut, the de­feat of the Is­lamic State in Iraq and Syria, and his­toric gains in the stock mar­ket.

Trump de­liv­ered his roughly hour­long speech al­most ver­ba­tim from a teleprompter, stay­ing un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally faith­ful to his pre­pared script as he paused for ova­tions, sa­vor­ing the op­por­tu­nity to pro­mote his agenda and to tout the strength of what he called “one Amer­i­can fam­ily.”

In a break with tra­di­tion, first lady Me­la­nia Trump trav­eled to the Capi­tol ahead of her hus­band. Those sit­ting along­side the first lady in­cluded an Ohio welder who the White House says will ben­e­fit from the new tax law and the par­ents of two Long Is­land teenagers who were be­lieved to have been killed by MS-13 gang mem­bers.

Aides said the speech was drafted over sev­eral weeks, with the pres­i­dent of­fer­ing hand­writ­ten ed­its and send­ing aides ideas for passages and catch­phrases. Aides in­volved in the writ­ing of the address in­cluded senior ad­viser Stephen Miller, staff sec­re­tary Rob Porter and speech­writ­ers

Vince Ha­ley and Ross Wor­thing­ton.

In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael D. Shear of

The New York Times; by Julie Pace and Zeke Miller of The As­so­ci­ated

Press; by John Wag­ner, David Fahren­thold and Sean Sul­li­van of The Wash­ing­ton Post; and by Justin Sink, Mark Ni­quette, Laura Lit­van, Mar­garet Talev and Jen­nifer Ja­cobs of Bloomberg News.

The New York Times/DOUG MILLS

Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence (left) and House Speaker Paul Ryan sit be­hind Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump as he lists his achieve­ments and de­tails his leg­isla­tive pro­pos­als for Con­gress.

AP/J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE

First lady Me­la­nia Trump ar­rives Tues­day on Capi­tol Hill for the State of the Union address. In a break with tra­di­tion, she trav­eled to the Capi­tol ahead of her hus­band.

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