President Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union address Tuesday night, a speech declaring that the country was poised at “a new American moment.”
The president boasted of the strength of the U.S. economy and the resiliency of American workers. He called for a $1.5 trillion spending bill to rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure with “American heart, American hands and American grit.”
And — while Democrats booed or glowered in silence — Trump spent a large portion of his speech on his plans to overhaul the immigration system, including proposals for a wall on the border with Mexico, an end to family reunification, and a path to citizenship for 1.8 million so-called Dreamers.
The stakes were high for the president, who entered the chamber with historically low approval ratings and the threat of another government shutdown just over a week away, and it remains to be seen whether Trump’s promises Tuesday night will earn him good will among his critics.
Read the president's full remarks, as prepared for delivery.
Thanks so much for joining us tonight for our coverage of President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address.
If you’re just catching up to it this morning, here's what you missed…
- In his speech, Trump shared a vision for a "new American moment" that featured a subdued tone but highlighted several of his more polarizing policy plans.
- Throughout his approximately 80-minute address — the third-longest State of the Union — Trump boasted about the tax cuts he enacted at the close of last year and pointed what's next on his agenda. (You can read his full prepared remarks here.)
- But Trump didn’t get everything right, our fact-checker found, and critical points he made regarding immigration, the economy, and even his own tax cuts were not correct. And while Republicans praised the speech, the anti-Trump Twitterverse exploded with criticism, especially after viewers noticed that the president was repeatedly clapping for himself.
- Afterward, in the official Democratic rebuttal, Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., accused Trump of dividing the country, exclaiming that while, “Bullies may land a punch … they have never, not once, in the history of our United States, managed to match the strength and spirit of a people united in defense of their future."
- Trump was overheard guaranteeing a GOP congressman that he would release a classified memo believed to show the FBI abused its surveillance program, despite the White House saying earlier no decision had been made. So, stay tuned.
President Donald Trump's first State of the Union address was billed by the White House beforehand as a speech that would be "unifying" and "bipartisan."
It was neither.
A relatively sedate Trump poked seated and silent Democrats in the House chamber — and their constituents — with partisan jabs on Obamacare, immigration, gun rights, respect for the American flag and other issues that have generated fierce friction since he took office.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., blasted the president as "compulsively dishonest" and a "bully" during his rebuttal to Tuesday night's State of the Union address.
In his response, which was separate from the official Democratic rebuttal to Trump, Sanders also slammed the president as someone "who actively represents the interests of the billionaire class, who is anti-science, and who is trying to divide us up based on the color of our skin, our nation of origin, our religion, our gender, or our sexual orientation."
The Vermont senator also hit Trump for barely mentioning Russia in his speech.
"How can he not talk about the reality that Russia, through cyberwarfare, interfered in our election in 2016, is interfering in democratic elections all over the world, and according to his own CIA director will likely interfere in the 2018 midterm elections that we will be holding?" Sanders said. "How do you not talk about that unless you have a very special relationship with Mr. Putin?"
As he exited the House Chamber Tuesday night, President Donald Trump seemed to guarantee a Republican congressman that he would release a classified memo believed to show the FBI abused its surveillance program.
Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., who waited hours to guarantee an aisle seat that would allow him to greet the president, can clearly be heard telling Trump to “release the memo.” The memo was produced by House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes.
“Don’t worry. One hundred percent,” Trump can be heard saying.
However, earlier in the day, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that “there are no current plans to release the House Intelligence Committee’s memo." She added, "The president has not seen or been briefed on the memo or reviewed its contents.”
While Trump's speech was the third-longest in modern history, he returned to specific words and themes repeatedly. Here are some of his most frequently mentioned words:
Tax cut/reform: 7
North Korea: 7
Similarly, there were some words and themes that Trump's mentioned only sparingly, despite their having made headlines throughout his first year in office...
Russia: 1 (but only in the context of “rivals” like China)
Deficit: 1 (but only in the context of what he called the “infrastructure deficit”)
Spending: 0 (in the context of government spending)
Initial reactions to the president's speech were predictably partisan, with Democrats largely focusing on the uncertain path ahead for immigration reform and Republicans latching on to Trump's uncharacteristically serious and presidential tone.
“Unemployment claims have hit a 45-year low. And something I’m very proud of — African-American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded,” Trump said.
Trump’s got his numbers right — unemployment overall is at a 45-year low and black unemployment did reach a new low this year — but he’s taking credit for an awful lot of gains that occurred before his administration.
President Barack Obama cut black unemployment in half, from 16.8 percent to 7.8 percent during his administration. Under Trump’s administration thus far, the black unemployment rate has fallen just one point, from 7.8 percent to 6.8 percent.
"In the past, we have foolishly released hundreds of dangerous terrorists, only to meet them again on the battlefield — including the ISIS leader, al-Baghdadi," Trump said, before announcing an order directing that the detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay be kept open.
Trump is correct, though the trend fell dramatically under former President Barack Obama. However, his claim that the U.S. released the man who would become the leader of ISIS is somewhat misleading. The man known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was released into Iraqi custody in 2004 — not set free by the U.S.
According to a March 2017 report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 121 former detainees of the U.S. detention facility in Cuba were confirmed to have returned to terrorist activities. Another 87 were suspected of reengaging with terrorist activities, the report showed.
Of the 121 who were confirmed to have returned to terrorism, 113 would have been released during the George W. Bush presidency. Of the 87 suspected of reengaging with terrorism, 74 would have been released during the George W. Bush presidency.
The official Democratic rebuttal to President Donald Trump's State of the Union address — delivered by Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass. — focused heavily on his party's support for gaining citizenship for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
At point point in his speech, Kennedy addressed those Dreamers in both Spanish and English, telling them that, "you are part of our story."
“One year later, I am proud to report that the coalition to defeat ISIS has liberated almost 100 percent of the territory once held by these killers in Iraq and Syria. But there is much more work to be done,” Trump said.
This is true. By early December, the Pentagon said 97 percent of ISIS-held territory in Iraq and Syria had been liberated. Now, analysts tell NBC News, the threat the U.S. must fight is dangerous lone wolf attacks and resurgences of the extremist group if forces do not continue to stamp it out.
Trump’s first State of the Union address clocked in at 80 minutes, making it the third-longest in modern American history, according to the American Presidency Project.
So who has him beat? Bill Clinton. Twice. His 1995 address was almost 85 minutes long, and his final address in 2000 lasted nearly 89 minutes.
"The third pillar ends the visa lottery — a program that randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of our people," Trump said.
Trump's description of the visa lottery program, which came as the president was describing his framework for immigration reform, is false. The diversity visa program grants 50,000 visas a year to individuals who have graduated high school or have "two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience to perform," according to the State Department.
Visa applicants are selected through a random, computer-generated lottery. If an applicant is selected, they face all of the same background checks and screening processes as any other immigrant visa applicant to be granted admission, including document presentation, background checks, in person interviews and medical exams.
“In recent weeks, two terrorist attacks in New York were made possible by the visa lottery and chain migration. In the age of terrorism, these programs present risks we can no longer afford," Trump said.
This is half true. Trump is correct that suspects in two recent terror attacks entered thanks to a family connection and the diversity visa lottery program, but both appear to have been radicalized well after they entered the United States, making them homegrown threats.
“Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives. Under our plan, we focus on the immediate family by limiting sponsorships to spouses and minor children. This vital reform is necessary, not just for our economy, but for our security, and our future,” Trump said.
This is false. Legal immigrants can sponsor their spouses, children, parents, and siblings — but distant relatives, like cousins, cannot be sponsored for residency. The family reunification visa process takes years or even more than a decade, preventing "chains" from forming the way Trump suggests, as Politico reported in detail.
What's more, there are only so many family visas that can be granted. The numbers are capped by the U.S. government.
One of the emotional moments of Tuesday's State of the Union address came when President Trump spoke about the death of two teenage girls as their grieving families sat in the audience.
The parents of Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens, killed in 2016, wiped tears from their faces as the president told the country of their deaths. Authorities have charged six members of the MS-13 gang, some of who, Trump said, took advantage of “glaring loopholes” in the country’s immigration laws.
“Tonight, everyone in this chamber is praying for you. Everyone in America is grieving for you. And 320 million hearts are breaking for you. We cannot imagine the depth of your sorrow, but we can make sure that other families never have to endure this pain,” Trump said.
Search interest in the criminal MS-13 gang spiked during Trump's address, according to stats released by Google. The president told a story of two young teenage girls who were murdered by members of the gang, as well as touted the bravery of a Homeland Security agent who recently commanded an operation that Trump said resulted in the arrest of more than 220 MS-13 members. He mentioned the gang four times by name.
"Tonight, I am calling on the Congress to finally close the deadly loopholes that have allowed MS-13, and other criminals, to break into our country," Trump said. "We have proposed new legislation that will fix our immigration laws, and support our ICE and Border Patrol Agents, so that this cannot ever happen again."
President Trump announced Tuesday he has signed an executive order to keep Guantanamo Bay prison open.
The order, announced during the president’s State of the Union, will reverse a President Barack Obama directive to close the controversial detention center. Though Obama campaigned on closing the facility, he was ultimately unable to strike a deal with Congress that would have sorted out what to do with the remaining detainees.
"I am asking the Congress to ensure that, in the fight against ISIS and al Qaeda, we continue to have all necessary power to detain terrorists -- wherever we chase them down, wherever we find them," Trump said. While the prison remains open, the Trump administration has not sent any new detainees there.
If you’re happy with yourself and you know it, clap your hands.
The anti-Trump Twitterverse exploded with criticism Tuesday night after State of the Union viewers noticed that the president was repeatedly clapping for himself.
While it is customary for lawmakers in attendance at a State of the Union address to applaud after the commander in chief delivers lines they agree with, it isn't typical for the president himself to consistently applaud himself along with the audience.
Trump, however, was seen clapping on several occasions in between lines of his speech, sparking an outcry on Twitter.