Democratic women stand for Trump
A throng of white-clad Democratic congresswomen, including many recently elected lawmakers, including some of his biggest critics, stood for a moment during Trump's speech highlighting record numbers of women in the workforce and serving in Congress.
The women legislators stood and clapped after Trump said women have benefitted greatly in the growing U.S. economy, filling "58 percent of the new jobs created in the last year."
Trump expressed surprise that the members, including freshmen Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, clapped for that portion of his speech.
Trump jokingly added afterwards "don't sit yet, you're going to like" the next part of the speech, where he said "all Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before — and exactly one century after Congress passed the Constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in Congress than ever before."
Wrapping up the State of the Union: The highlights
Thank you for joining us for our coverage of President Donald Trump's second State of the Union address. If you didn't follow the speech, here's what you missed:
- Trump took a swipe at "partisan investigations" in his speech, an apparent reference to special counsel Robert Mueller's probe, a frequent target. The president said the only things that can stop economic progress are "foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations. ... If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation."
- Some of Trump's fiercest opponents cheered when he highlighted how more women are serving in Congress than ever before.
- The president didn't call for a national emergency to build the wall, but he called on Congress to reach an agreement on border security before the government runs out of money again in just over a week.
- Trump also went off-script and said he wants more legal immigrants than ever before — directly contradicting policy positions that his administration has pursued.
- "America will never be a socialist country," Trump said.
- There were a whole heck of a lot of fact checks.
- Trump's speech was the third-longest State of the Union in history.
- Everyone sang happy birthday to one of Trump's guests — an 81-year-old survivor of the Holocaust and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting last year.
- In her response, former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams hit Trump on immigration, the wall and gun violence, as well as on the longest shutdown in U.S. history.
- Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said she will be announcing her decision on running for president in 2020 this Sunday.
- Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said she thought Trump seemed "unprepared." "I don't think that he did his homework," she said.
Trump says 'politics of revenge' must be rejected. But polls show his tone frequently misses the mark
"We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good," Trump said Tuesday evening.
While a message of comity may be appealing to many Americans, a majority of the public consistently gives poor marks to Trump for his tone and demeanor.
In a January NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 58 percent of Americans gave Trump poor marks for "having high personal and ethical standards." In the same poll, only 28 percent said that they were "extremely" or "quite" confident that Trump has the right set of personal characteristics to be president.
Long before he ran for president, Trump highlighted his tendency to hit back at his foes as “a way of life.”
“When someone attacks me, I always attack back ... except 100x more," he tweeted in November 2012. "This has nothing to do with a tirade but rather, a way of life!”
Fact check: Trump says he's added 5.3 million jobs
"We have created 5.3 million new jobs," Trump said during his State of the Union address.
Trump is taking credit for the job gains in the final months of his predecessor's administration, starting the clock on job gains from his election — not his inauguration.
Since Trump has been in office, total nonfarm employment has grown by nearly 4.9 million. The 5.3 million data point includes gains in between his election on Nov. 8, 2016 and his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017.
Fact check: Trump says 'countless Americans' are murdered by 'criminal illegal aliens'
In his address, Trump claimed that "countless Americans" are murdered by "criminal illegal aliens."
There isn’t good data on homicides specifically in the United States, but there's no evidence that immigrants commit more crimes than American-born residents.
Previous empirical research shows that "immigrants do not increase local crime rates, are less likely to cause crime than their native-born peers, and are less likely to be incarcerated than native-born Americans," according to the Libertarian-leaning Cato Institute.
Trump has previously circulated a claim backed by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that 63,000 Americans have been killed by undocumented immigrants since 9/11, but that number has since been debunked.
PolitiFact has extrapolated from existing data sources that the number of homicides committed by undocumented immigrants may be between 450-600 per year. But again, those are guesses, not based on national data sources.
Analysis: A ritual of state lacking in credibility
If you had just arrived from Mars and had no idea who is president, Trump's State of the Union would have sounded like an OK speech. While pedestrian in delivery, it expressed some unifying sentiments about D-Day, criminal justice reform, women's suffrage, cancer survivors, the need to reduce drug prices and protect patients with pre-existing conditions. Even his celebrating of drug dealers released from prison just before claiming that drug dealers are flooding the borders sounded fine. The problem is that we haven't just arrived from Mars, but have been living with Trump for two years — long enough to know his credibility is lacking, whether on his proposals or even his platitudes.
So what is the effect of a speech like this? Will he convince the American public that if he "had not been elected president of the United States, we would now be in a major war with North Korea"? Will he be able to use events in Venezuela to rally the American public against socialism? Will he convince even his own intelligence chiefs that the Iran nuclear deal is "disastrous"? Not likely. Last year, just one day after Trump's State of the Union, he attacked special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation as a "disgrace, shameful." You can bet that the same thing will happen by the end of the week. We know this president, and we know he will not change. That makes this ritual of state all but meaningless.
Jonathan Alter is an author, presidential historian and columnist for The Daily Beast.
Fact check: Trump says border fencing made El Paso safer
"The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime — one of the highest in the country, and considered one of our nation's most dangerous cities," Trump claimed in his address, according to the advance transcript. “Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities.”
In fact, El Paso's crime rate had been dropping for years when construction on border fence began in 2008. However, the crime rate actually rose during construction and in the year after completion of a fence, according to an analysis of FBI crime data by The El Paso Times.
The city's sheriff, Richard Wiles, a Democrat, disputed Trump's characterization as "falsehoods" used to "justify the building of a 2,000 mile wall."
“The facts are clear. While it is true that El Paso is one of the safest cities in the nation, it has never been ... considered one of our nation's most dangerous cities," Wiles said in a statement provided to NBC News. "And, El Paso was a safe city long before any wall was built. President Trump continues to give a false narrative about a great city that truly represents what this great nation is all about."
Fact check: Trump says U.S. has 'more women in the workforce than ever before'
It's true that there is a greater number of women in the workforce than ever before, but that's the continuation of a long-term trend.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated in January that there were about 74.9 million women in the workforce. But that number has long been trending upward, and the overall growth of the U.S. population means that the raw number of women in the workforce has increased nearly every year since at least the early 1980s — except for in years during which the country experienced a recession.
Perhaps another metric to measure women’s participation in the workforce would be the women’s unemployment rate. The unemployment rate for women over 16 stood at 3.9 percent in January. That was up slightly from a low of 3.6 percent in May and September of last year. But, as with unemployment overall, women’s unemployment has been falling since the end of the recession.
Fact check: 'Tens of thousands' of Americans are killed by drugs coming across the border
It’s correct that lethal drugs do come across the border, and drug overdose deaths are up among men, women, all races, and adults of nearly all ages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2017, 70,237 people died from an overdose.
But Trump — in pushing for a border wall — tends to ignore that the vast majority of hard drugs from Mexican cartels come into the U.S. through legal ports of entry, which wouldn’t be affected by a wall.
According to a 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment by the DEA, Mexican drug cartels “transport the bulk of their drugs over the Southwest border through ports of entry (POEs) using passenger vehicles or tractor trailers. The drugs are typically secreted in hidden compartments when transported in passenger vehicles or commingled with legitimate goods when transported in tractor trailers."
In the 2018 version of the same publication, DEA said that the most common method employed bythe cartels involves "transporting illicit drugs through U.S. POEs in passenger vehicles with concealed compartments or commingled with legitimate goods on tractor trailers."
The Trump administration knows this. Then-Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly — who went on to become White House chief of staff until December 2018 — said in April 2017 that illegal drug traffic “mostly comes through the ports of entry.”
Analysis: Stacey Abrams represents a coalition on the march
It’s not so much what Stacey Abrams says, it’s that she got the chance to say it at all. Having her deliver the Democratic response is long overdue recognition of a core constituency of the Democratic Party: African-Americans and African-American women in particular.
Her story is inspiring, her values central to the American story, and her strong showing as her party’s nominee in the 2018 gubernatorial election sets her up to challenge GOP Sen. Sonny Perdue. The Georgia Senate seat is one of nine Republican-held seats that the Democrats have a chance to capture in the path to winning back control of the Senate. Abrams’ speech was workmanlike, as these responses typically are, but she is at the front of a coalition that is on the march.
Eleanor Clift is a longtime political reporter, author and columnist for The Daily Beast.
Fact check: The economy is growing twice as fast today as when Trump took office
“The U.S. economy is growing almost twice as fast today as when I took office,” Trump said Tuesday night.
This is true. When Trump took office, the rate of GDP growth was 1.8 percent for the first quarter of 2017; in the third quarter of 2018, the most recent data available, it was 3.4 percent.
Abrams calls out White House on school shootings
Stacey Abrams called out the White House on the spate of school shootings over the past few years, saying in her rebuttal speech to Trump's State of the Union that the White House "responds timidly while first graders practice active shooter drills and the price of higher education grows ever steeper."
"We owe [children] safe schools and the highest standards, regardless of zip code," said Abrams, a former Georgia House minority leader and gubernatorial candidate. She later added, "From now on, our leaders must be willing to tackle gun safety measures and the crippling effect of educational loans, to support educators and invest what is necessary to unleash the power of America’s greatest minds."