President Donald Trump delivered his second State of the Union address Tuesday, while former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams attacked the recent government shutdown as a "disgrace" and "a stunt" by the president in the Democratic response.
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: The contrast between Trump's speech and Abrams'
Trump was fast and furious with the facts in his speech. He spent a good chunk of his time discussing the sanctity of life. However, the Trump administration's disregard for children’s safety at the border demonstrates how his commitment to the most vulnerable is vacuous. In fact, the United Nations has declared the atrocity at the border to be a violation of children’s universal rights.
By contrast, Stacy Abrams laid out American values and the need for being fair and compassionate. She mentioned caged children. She asked for the president to speak truth, but most importantly, she reminded us of what makes our democracy thrive: the voting booth.
Voting — access to the voting booth — is one of the few issues that cuts through political stripes. Americans, regardless if they’re Republican or Democrats, believe in fair access to the vote.
Maria Teresa Kumar is the CEO of the civic media group Voto Latino.
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.
Ocasio-Cortez says Trump seemed 'unprepared' for address
Freshman Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on MSNBC following Trump's State of the Union address that she thought he seemed "unprepared" for the major speech.
"I don't think that he did his homework," she said. "There was no plan."
Ocasio-Cortez said the president did not outline any plan to deal with the opioid crisis, health care or increasing wages.
When asked about Trump tying her policy proposals to Venezuela, a socialist country, the New York lawmaker said Trump did so because "he feels himself losing on the issues."
"Every single policy proposal that we've adopted and presented to the American public has been overwhelmingly popular," she said, adding that some Republicans approve of what some Democrats are proposing, such as increased taxes on the ultra-wealthy.
Reaction to Trump and Abram run the gamut
On Trump's speech...
No mention of Puerto Rico.
Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan and frequent Trump critic, called the president out in a tweet for not mentioning the U.S. territory, which is still rebuilding after 2017's hurricane.
"Not one word, not one word about Puerto Rico," she said.
But, he got praise for highlighting veterans.
"Thank you @realdonaldtrump for recognizing the more than 52,000 veterans who have been severely wounded since 9/11 and the work your administration has done to help our great veterans," tweeted Sarah Verardo, the CEO of The Independence Fund, a nonprofit that helps veterans.
On Abrams' response...
"Stacey Abrams should run for president," tweeted former Obama adviser Dan Pfieffer after her speech.
Abrams also got 'props' for her pithiness.
Professor and author Daniel W. Drezner: "Props to Stacey Abrams: that was short, sharp speech that stuck the landing."
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."
Sen. Amy Klobuchar says she'll unveil 2020 decision on Sunday
Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar Tuesday night said she will announce whether she is running for president in 2020 during an event this coming Sunday.
In an interview with MSNBC after President Trump delivered the State of the Union address, Klobuchar invited supporters to Minneapolis to hear her decision.
"Sunday, come to Boom Island in Minneapolis" and "you'll find out my decision," Klobuchar said.
"Here you go, that's the moment."
Klobuchar answered the question after being pressed by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, who pointed to a recent Politico report that she's traveling to Iowa later this month and to a Minneapolis Star-Tribune report that a former aide had filed a permit for a large event at Boom Island Park in Minneapolis.
The Minnesota senator would be the first major candidate in the race from the midwest. She'd also be the fourth woman in the Senate to seek the Democratic nomination, with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren expected to formally announce her bid on Saturday.
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.
Analysis: A state of division on foreign policy
The United States stands alone. This was a clear theme that came through again and again from Trump’s foreign policy “accomplishments.” From Iran to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Israel to ISIS, China to climate change, his administration has made few decisions that enjoy the support of the international community. These largely unilateral pronouncements are neither strategic, nor sustainable. In many ways, they leave us more vulnerable.
Even where the president has entertained engaging with others, such as on North Korea or Syria, he has often done so without consultation or consideration of the consequences. The result is real reluctance by allies to partner with the U.S. or invest in our vision. In the end, America will pay a high price for Trump’s disengagement and distaste for diplomacy.
Brett Bruen is a former U.S. diplomat and former White House director of global engagement under President Barack Obama.
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."
Abrams hits Trump on immigration, the wall
In her official response to Trump's speech, Democrat Stacey Abrams hit the president on his immigration policies and his vow to build a border wall.
Trump slammed Democrats for wanting "open borders," but Abrams blasted the administration for its child separation policy and said that "compassionate treatment at the order is not the same as open borders."
"Democrats stand ready to effectively secure our ports and border but we must all embrace that from agriculture to health care to entrepreneurship America is made stronger by the presence of immigrants, not walls," she added.
Analysis: Abrams starts by talking about the shutdown, a puzzling choice
Stacey Abrams' delivery was superb but the choice of the shutdown as a place to begin her argument is puzzling. That’s an issue of last month — not next year. But she may only be talking to her base.
Hugh Hewitt is a conservative columnist, radio host and attorney.
Congress sings happy birthday to 81-year-old survivor of Holocaust, Pittsburgh synagogue shooting
Analysis: Focusing on border wall at the expense of other threats puts America in danger
A commander I served with on a base outside of Tikrit, Iraq, was fond of saying: “You can be so focused on the problem that you miss the threat.”
Trump’s overemphasis during his remarks tonight on the threat of illegal immigration at our southern border has so far come at the expense of almost every other major national security threat. His own intelligence chiefs didn’t rank illegal immigration as a top priority last week.
Overlooking more malevolent national security issues puts our country in greater danger.
Trump captured so well in this one speech the recklessness of his myopic approach to serving as our nation's commander in chief. Instead of consuming expert intelligence, he concentrates on extreme innuendo. Instead of prioritizing safety, he politicizes serious issues. Instead of sending our troops on a mission to protect America’s vital interests, he sends them on a self-interested mission to the border.
Brett Bruen is a former U.S. diplomat and former White House director of global engagement.
Fact check: Trump claims Mexican cities are paying for migrants to journey to U.S.
In a section discussing illegal immigration, Trump said that "Mexican cities, in order to remove the illegal immigrants from their communities, are getting trucks and buses to bring them up to our country in areas where there is little border protection."
Trump seems to be referring to a group of about 2,000 migrants who are arriving at the port of entry in Eagle Pass, Texas. This group made much of their journey by bus, and a handful of cities and towns they passed through in Mexico paid for the buses because they were not equipped to care for the immigrants.
However, it's not clear what Trump meant when he said there is "little border protection." Texas sent state patrolmen and women to Eagle Pass today as reinforcements, where federal and local law enforcement also had a larger than usual presence, according to local news reports.
"There is patrol at all times through the area, so it's just a little heavier today than usual," Eagle Pass Mayor Ramsey Cantu told reporters on Tuesday, according to the local ABC News affiliate.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said that DHS will “take all steps to ensure the safety of law enforcement personnel” at the border.
Fact check: Trump says he's sending another 3,750 troops to the U.S. border
This is true — though those troops won't all deploy at the same time.
The Department of Homeland Security Request for Assistance was approved in January by acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who agreed to send 3,750 more troops to string concertina wire, man surveillance cameras, and provide some airlift support. However, they won't all deploy to the border at once. There will be an influx of about 2,000 to string 160 miles of concertina wire but then the number will go back down as the mission turns to manning surveillance cameras and supporting Customs and Border Protection in other ways.
There are about 2,400 active duty troops there now, and more will begin to deploy in mid-February. Still, the total deployed there is not expected to surpass about 4,400 at this point.
Analysis: There's something amiss with this scene
When Trump discussed a ban on late-term abortions, there was something notably wrong with the scene.
The almost all-male side of the aisle stood and cheered as the president distorted the Democratic position on late-term abortion.
Meanwhile, dozens of women lawmakers on the other side of the aisle dressed in suffrage white sat in silent rebuke evoking the “silent sentinels” who stood outside of the White House a hundred years ago to gain the vote.
Eleanor Clift is a longtime political reporter, author and columnist for The Daily Beast.
Longest State of the Union speech? So close ...
Trump spoke for about 82 minutes on Tuesday night, making his State of the Union speech one of the longest ever.
But he came up short by just a few minutes to Bill Clinton's 2000 address, which lasted about 88 minutes.
Still, Trump's speech comes in as the third-longest SOTU.
Democrats cheer for Trump promoting Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela
A significant number of Democrats clapped or cheered following Trump's line noting the U.S. recognizing Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as interim president of that nation.
"We stand with the Venezuelan people in their noble quest for freedom — and we condemn the brutality of the Maduro regime, whose socialist policies have turned that nation from being the wealthiest in South America into a state of abject poverty and despair," Trump said.
Trump used the opportunity to criticize calls for more socialist policies within the Democratic Party
"Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country," he said. "America was founded on liberty and independence — not government coercion, domination and control. ... Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country."
Analysis: 'Most important' SOTU? Try predictable and loaded with half-truths
In an email Donald Trump sent out this evening to MAGA supporters asking for money for his 2020 re-election campaign, he referred to this speech as “the most important State of the Union Address in the history of our country.”
Can anyone give me one reason why that would be an accurate assessment for a predictable speech loaded with half-truths and misrepresentations and brimming with unwarranted self-congratulation?
David Corn is the Washington, D.C., bureau chief for Mother Jones.
Fact check: Trump says 'we have more women serving in Congress than at any time before'
Trump earned big applause for this line: "We have more women serving in Congress than at any time before."
He's correct, but it’s also true that those women are overwhelmingly Democrats. In fact, the share of Republican women in the House has gone down since the last Congress.
According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, of the 127 female voting members of the House and Senate in the chamber tonight, 106 are Democrats and just 21 are Republicans.
In fact, in the House, the share of Republican women actually decreased from last Congress to this one. Last Congress, there were 23 Republican women serving in the House as voting members. That’s down to just 13 this Congress.
The overall breakdown of female voting members is:
House: 89 Democrats, 13 Republicans
Senate: 17 Democrats, 8 Republicans
Fact check: 1 in 3 women is sexually assaulted on journey to America
"Tolerance for illegal immigration is not compassionate, it is cruel," Trump said. "One in 3 women is sexually assaulted on the long journey north."
While it's difficult to estimate the rates at which it occurs, it's true that sexual violence is a reality for many female migrants. One Amnesty International publication in 2010 reported that it is the “widely held view” of non-profit and medical workers that as many as six in 10 migrant women are raped.
Trump's estimate appears to be based on a May 2017 report by Doctors Without Borders, which found that about one-third of female migrants (out of a survey of 467 migrants total) had experienced sexual abuse during their journey.
Pic of the night? Pelosi and Trump
Props to Doug Mills for snapping the pic of the night — Pelosi offering a bit of applause to Trump along with a sly look.
Pelosi quiets Democrats booing Trump over caravan
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi quieted down frustrated Democrats who were hissing over President Trump's warnings about "caravans" of immigrants on the border.
As the boos grew when Trump warned about "large organized caravans" who are "on the march to the United States," Pelosi put up her hand, quickly silencing her colleagues.
Watch the scene below.
Fact check: Trump says U.S. has liberated 'virtually all' of Iraq and Syria from ISIS
“When I took office, ISIS controlled more than 20,000 square miles in Iraq and Syria. Today, we have liberated virtually all of that territory from the grip of these bloodthirsty killers," Trump said.
It’s true that almost all of the physical territory once held by ISIS is now gone — just 1 percent is left, according to Brett McGurk, the now-former special presidential envoy to the coalition to defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq. But military officials warn that ISIS still has thousands of fighters and that it could reclaim that territory without a U.S. presence.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies estimates that “while Islamic State territorial control has been reduced to minor pockets of rural Iraq, the group was still carrying out an average of 75 attacks per month in 2018."
And in the annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment,” released in January, U.S. intelligence officials concluded that “ISIS still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria, and it maintains eight branches, more than a dozen networks, and thousands of dispersed supporters around the world, despite significant leadership and territorial losses."
In January, NBC News reported on a draft Pentagon report warning that ISIS is intent on reconstituting a physical caliphate and that the terror group could retake lost land in six to 12 months if there is no military pressure preventing them from doing so.
“Nobody is declaring mission accomplished” in the fight against ISIS, McGurk said in early December. Then, after Trump announced on Dec. 19 that U.S. troops would withdraw from Syria, tweeting that ISIS had been “defeated,” McGurk resigned. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis also resigned in the wake of that decision.
Gillibrand looks to 2020 during Trump's speech
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand used Trump's speech to solicit donations to her 2020 campaign.
The New York lawmaker posted a GIF of her sighing at the speech with the caption: "Agree? Chip in $5 so we can put an end to this."
Fact check: North Korea hasn't tested a missile in 15 months
“Our hostages have come home, nuclear testing has stopped, and there has not been a missile launch in 15 months… Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jong Un is a good one,” Trump said.
While Trump is correct that North Korea has not launched a missile in 15 months, there’s ample evidence that North Korea is seeking to retain and hide their nuclear capabilities — contradicting the president’s past claims that he’s made great progress in getting Pyongyang to give up their nuclear weapons.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said last week that it's "unlikely" North Korea will try to denuclearize.
And the regime appears to be working to hide their efforts. As NBC News reported on January 21, researchers funded by the defense think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies have discovered an undisclosed secret ballistic missile base in North Korea — and that there could be as many as 20.
North Korea has also refused to provide a detailed list of its nuclear and missile facilities, despite the U.S. calls for it to do so.
A former senior U.S. official who has been briefed on the negotiations told NBC News that “I can’t find anybody in the U.S. who thinks the North Koreans are denuclearizing.”
Vice President Mike Pence conceded earlier this month that the U.S. is still “await[ing] concrete steps by North Korea to dismantle the nuclear weapons that threaten our people and our allies in the region.”
Fact check: Trump says Venezuela's collapse is a result of 'socialist policies'
Since the swearing-in of President Nicolás Maduro — whom much of the international community has called illegitimate — many conservative critics have blamed the country’s “21st century socialism” for the recent unrest and protests. Trump on Tuesday night said that Maduro's "socialist policies have turned that nation from being the wealthiest in South America into a state of abject poverty and despair."
But it's a more complicated picture than just the s-word. Corruption of Venezuelan leaders and the country’s near-complete dependence on oil are also important components of the country’s downfall. After Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez, became president in 1999, he worked to use oil revenues from the then-booming industry to fund national programs. But when oil prices began to collapse in 2014, shortly after Chávez died and Maduro took over, the country lacked funds for those programs. U.S. sanctions on the oil industry, a result of charges of corruption and human rights abuses by Venezuelan leaders, have been another blow to the economy. Francisco Toro, a Venezuelan journalist and an official with the Latin American business organization Group of 50, wrote in a Washington Post opinion article last year that “all Venezuela demonstrates is that if you leave implementation to the very worst, most anti-intellectual, callous, authoritarian and criminal people in society, socialism can have genuinely horrendous consequences.” Toro and others have pointed out that other countries with leftist or socialist-leaning governments — like Denmark or Sweden — have not experienced similar unrest.
Trump says he wants largest number of legal immigrants
Fresh off of the longest shutdown in U.S. history, Trump said Republicans and Democrats "must join forces again to confront" illegal immigration before the government runs out of funding in 10 days.
Trump did not, however, threaten to shut down the government if lawmakers do not provide him with more than $5 billion in funding for a border wall. The government shut down in December because Democrats disagreed with Trump's demand for $5.7 billion in wall funding, though Trump relented, allowing the government to re-open in late January.
Trump also did not say he would call for a national emergency to build the wall if lawmakers don't agree to funding the project.
"This is a moral issue," Trump said. "The lawless state of our Southern border is a threat to the safety, security and financial well-being of all Americans. We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens. This includes our obligation to the millions of immigrants living here today, who followed the rules and respected our laws. Legal immigrants enrich our nation and strengthen our society in countless ways. I want people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally."
Trump's remarks on legal immigration went off script and contradicted hardline immigration policies his administration has pursued.
"Tolerance for illegal immigration is not compassionate — it is cruel," he later added.
Trump insisted "walls work" and "walls save lives" in concluding this portion of his speech.
Fact check: 'Over the last two years, we have begun to fully rebuild the United States Military'
Despite Trump's frequent discussion of "restoring" and "rebuilding" America's military might, the most recent legislation he signed to fund national defense came in at less than an Obama-signed bill in 2011.
For fiscal year 2019, Trump has signed into law National Defense Authorization legislation that provides $716 billion for national defense operations, including $639 billion for the Pentagon.
That’s a smaller dollar number than the $726 billion provided by the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act.
It’s not clear yet what Trump will ultimately propose for defense spending in fiscal year 2020.
In a tweet on Dec. 4, he appeared to decry the amount of spending on defense, saying, "The U.S. spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!" (He’s referring to the same bill he signed into law).
But days after reports that he wanted to slash future spending to $700 billion, the administration signaled that Trump would instead agree to a request from then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to boost that number to $740 billion.
Fact check: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam stated he 'would execute a baby after birth'
Speaking about abortion, Trump said, "we had the case of governor of Virginia where he stated he would execute a baby after birth."
A spokesman for the governor, Ralph Northam, disputed this characterization of confusing remarks he made days ago — and it should be noted that Northam was discussing a hypothetical procedure that would occur only in cases of severe deformities or nonviable pregnancy.
Nonetheless, he caused a firestorm when he responded to a question related to a proposed state law that would have made it somewhat easier for a woman to obtain an abortion later in a pregnancy for medical reasons.
Asked on a radio program what happens when a woman is going into labor who desires a third-trimester abortion, Northam noted that this kind of procedure only occurs in cases of severe deformities or nonviable pregnancy. He said that in this scenario, “the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
It’s worth noting that the proposed Virginia law — which failed to pass the Republican-controlled legislature — wasn’t proposing legalizing abortions in the third trimester; that is are already legal in the state. The bill proposed changing the number of physicians required for that kind of abortion’s approval — from three to one doctor. It also proposed broadening the list of health concerns that would allow a woman to seek approval for such an abortion.
Fact check: Trump claims New York allows abortion 'moments before birth'
"There could be no greater contrast to the beautiful image of a mother holding her infant child than the chilling displays our nation saw in recent days," Trump said, speaking out against abortion that occurs later in pregnancy. "Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother's womb moments before birth."
This is false.
The state recently passed a law loosening restrictions on abortions in the state, allowing abortions after 24 weeks if the fetus is not viable or when it’s necessary to protect the life of the mother. The president paints the picture of a healthy mother and child, but an abortion would not be legal in that scenario after 24 weeks in New York state.
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pushed back at critics, noting that it is “just a mirror of the federal law” — the abortion rights enshrined by the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade.
What's more, abortions later in pregnancy are exceedingly rare; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that just 1.3 percent of abortions in the U.S. in 2015 took place in or after the 21st week.
Trump wants to end HIV infections by 2030, but his track record leaves critics skeptical
Trump plans to announce a bold new initiative in his State of the Union speech: end all new HIV infections in the U.S. by 2030.
The move raised eyebrows among critics given Trump’s track record on HIV and LGBT-related issues. The Human Rights Campaign on Monday said Trump "simply cannot achieve this goal" given the administration's past actions.
Six months into his presidency, six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS resigned in protest because the administration "has no strategy to address the on-going HIV/AIDS epidemic." In its 2018 budget plan, the administration proposed nearly a billion in cuts to programs that address HIV/AIDS — even the Centers for Disease Control said at the time the cuts would result in "fewer HIV tests" being paid for using federal dollars.
Additionally, Trump has yet to appoint an AIDS czar, making him the first president without one since President Bill Clinton created the position in 1993. Trump has also not appointed someone to lead the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, and the office's informational page on the White House website has been removed.
HIV/AIDS advocates have also said that dismantling Obamacare — a signature goal of the administration — will have a detrimental impact on Americans, especially LGBT and lower-income people, living with HIV/AIDS.
However, Trump's plan to cut new infections is not unusual. President Barack Obama had the same goal and said that an "AIDS-free generation is within reach." The World Health Organization in December noted a similar goal of ending new infections by 2030 in countries around the world.
Trump's administration recently swore in two new co-chairs of its HIV/AIDS council, which plans to hold its first meeting in March.
Fact check: NAFTA was a 'historic blunder' for America
Trump, in advocating for Congress to support his new trade agreement, said he had met men and women across the country whose "dreams were shattered by NAFTA."
There are many estimates for job losses due to the Clinton-era North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but “millions” is higher than the number calculated by most groups from around the ideological spectrum.
Robert E. Scott of the pro-labor Economic Policy Institute found that about 851,700 U.S. jobs were displaced by the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico between 1993 (shortly before NAFTA was implemented) and 2014. That’s a data point that was cited by Bernie Sanders during his 2016 campaign, when he frequently decried job losses due to NAFTA.
A 2014 Peterson Institute for International Economics study found that while NAFTA has caused about 203,000 jobs to be displaced by NAFTA-related imports annually, imports support 188,000 new jobs, leading to a net loss of only about 15,000 annually.
And the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service wrote in 2017 that “in reality, NAFTA did not cause the huge job losses feared by the critics or the large economic gains predicted by supporters. The net overall effect of NAFTA on the U.S. economy appears to have been relatively modest, primarily because trade with Canada and Mexico accounts for a small percentage of U.S. GDP.”
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."
Fact check: Trump says drug prices have declined in 2018
"Already, as a result of my administration's efforts, in 2018 drug prices experienced their single largest decline in 46 years," Trump said on Tuesday.
The president first said drug prices would start dropping in May, but an Associated Press investigation of drug prices in the first half of 2018 found that overall prices were still on the rise. Over the first seven months of 2018, the AP found that there were 96 price hikes for every price cut.
There were fewer price increases from January through July 2018 than during comparable time frames in years past, but companies still hiked prices significantly more than they cut them. At the end of May, the president announced that drug companies would be voluntarily slashing prices within two weeks. In the two months after that, there were 395 price increases and 24 decreases.
In an interview with the AP at the time, Health Secretary Alex Azar said that it would be awhile before drug prices actually fall. He credited the complexity of the medicine market and incentives for drugmakers to boost prices in order to boost profits.
Analysis: Trump faces a sea of white on one side, blue on the other
The president entered a distinctly different chamber than his first address.
One can argue his politics ushered in the drastic change. With Nancy Pelosi at the helm as speaker, the 116th Congress convenes America’s most diverse Congress with 126 women, the youngest member class in decades, and the most ethnically representative group of elected lawmakers.
He’s starting to discuss the need for unifying. He’s reminding us of our history — from honoring our servicemen to championing our scientific prowess by reminding America of conquering our moon ambitions. It's a smart tactic and the chamber is responding.
The visual contrast between the sea of white on one side versus the sea of blue on the other is striking.
Maria Teresa Kumar is the CEO of the civic media group Voto Latino.
Trump bucks State of the Union tradition
Despite being in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's House, Trump didn't wait for her to introduce him before he began his speech.
It is customary for the speaker to introduce the president inside the lower chamber after the House sergeant at arms. Paul Ryan did it at Trump's speech last year.
Fact check: San Diego proves walls work to combat illegal immigration, Trump says
When Trump argues that the United States needs a wall along the southern border, he likes to point to San Diego's success. "San Diego used to have the most illegal border crossings in the country," Trump said Tuesday night. "In response, a strong security wall was put in place. This powerful barrier almost completely ended illegal crossings."
The militarized border touching the communities of Imperial Beach, San Ysidro and Otay Mesa contributed to a 75 percent decline in crossings in the years immediately after fencing was installed in the 1990s, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data.
There, double and triple barriers fortify the westernmost stretch of the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border as U.S. Border Patrol agents drive SUVs along frontage roads and hover overhead in helicopters.
The hardened border, however, pushed migrants to remote areas that are more dangerous, those experts contended. Arizona has become a hotbed of crossings, but migrants often die of dehydration. The mountains east of San Diego have also become a crossing zone, where migrants have died from hypothermia.
Fact check: We’re taking in billions off Chinese goods with tariffs
Trump vowed to right “calamitous” trade policies, and said he is “making it clear to China the theft of American jobs and wealth has come to an end.”
He continued, “Therefore, we recently imposed tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods — and now our Treasury is receiving billions of dollars.”
The president portrays this as an American victory over foreign companies. And while the U.S. government is taking in billions of dollars in tariffs, it’s not the Chinese who are paying the bulk of these — it’s American consumers.
Experts told NBC News in December that Trump was misunderstanding tariffs, the fee charged on foreign goods when they are imported. American consumers typically end up footing the bill for those taxes, not foreign companies. While one expert said there is some evidence that Chinese corporations may be reducing prices to absorb a fraction of the tariffs to stay more competitive in American markets, consumers are expected to absorb the bulk of the fee.
Trump urges Congress to choose between 'greatness or gridlock'
Trump in his State of the Union address urged Congress to "reject the politics of revenge" and choose between "greatness or gridlock."
Fact check: Trump says Democrats voted for border barriers in the past
This is true, but Trump dismissed the wall legislation Democrats supported as inadequate.
Dozens of Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, did vote for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which authorized building a fence along about 700 miles of the border between the United States and Mexico.Trump derided that fencing in 2016 as "such a little wall, such a nothing wall."
Analysis: Trump was right to highlight economic successes
There are some facts that are indeed facts, regardless of partisan affiliation or ideology. And one example is that America is better off now than it was two years ago and Trump was right to highlight those successes.
The country’s unemployment rate is the lowest since 1969 and the lowest in 65 years for women. No one has been left behind: Unemployment among African Americans, at 5.9 percent in May, is the lowest ever recorded. There are now more job openings in America that there are unemployed people.
But it’s not just jobs, workers are also keeping more of the money they earn. Americans in every congressional district in the country will pay less in taxes when they file their returns this year thanks to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Also, despite the administration’s advocacy in some cases for more protectionist trade policies, it’s efforts to roll back burdensome regulations contributed to the U.S. moving up six points, to 12th place, in the 2019 Index of Economic Freedom. That’s the highest the nation has ranked since 2011.
Genevieve Wood is a senior policy adviser and spokesperson for the Heritage Foundation.
Fact check: Trump says the state of the southern border is 'lawless,' threatening the security of all Americans
America's immigration system is broken — that's something experts, advocates and politicians across the aisle can agree on — but there's little evidence the southern border is experiencing a new state of emergency. Violence isn't spilling over the border, and terrorists aren't being caught in droves trying to cross it. Illegal drugs largely come through legal ports of entry, not unguarded parts of the border, according to border authorities.
Illegal border crossings have been dropping for years, and while border apprehensions have risen in recent months, they are still markedly lower than they were twenty years ago, Customs and Border Protection data shows.
And though Trump has focused on the border, illegal immigration in the U.S. is being driven by another factor: people who overstay their visas. More than 701,900 people overstayed their visas during fiscal year 2017, according to the Department of Homeland Security. People who overstay their visas usually enter the country through an airport, not from the border.
Republicans break out in 'USA' chants after Trump says Union is 'strong'
Republicans broke out in chants of "USA!" after Trump said "the State of our Union is strong."
Trump responded, saying he appreciated and liked the chants.
Analysis: Democrats didn't applaud booming economy or 'Right to Try'
The president is making good use of the time to review the accomplishments of the last Congress. The booming economy is his ticket to a competitive race for re-election. His emphasis on criminal justice reform and VA reform is setting the stage for a comparison between the just-completed Congress and whatever legislative record is compiled by this new Congress.
It is a great set up for his address in 2020 — and for his convention acceptance speech.
It is interesting to see many members on the Democratic side refusing to applaud terrific economic news, and most refusing to applaud passage of "Right to Try," which had bipartisan support. The legislation allows terminally ill patients to obtain experimental drugs without getting federal approval.
Joe Manchin broke with the majority of his party to applaud American energy domination, a dream of presidents from Jimmy Carter onward.
What the Democrats did and didn't applaud is both interesting and memorable.
Hugh Hewitt is a conservative columnist, radio host and attorney.
Fact check: Trump says 'wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders'
Trump underscored his pitch to address illegal immigration by claiming that "wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards."
Many Democrats have called for reforming immigration enforcement — in particular, some have called for abolishing and rethinking Immigration and Customs Enforcement — but no prominent lawmakers have pushed for open borders. Democratic leaders, amid the recent government spending fight that led to the longest shutdown in U.S. history, consistently rejected Trump's wall while still advocating for border security in general.
"We all agree we need to secure our borders, while honoring our values: we can build the infrastructure and roads at our ports of entry; we can install new technology to scan cars and trucks for drugs coming into our nation; we can hire the personnel we need to facilitate trade and immigration at the border; we can fund more innovation to detect unauthorized crossings," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in January.
And while a meme shared by conservatives on social media alleged there is a wall around Pelosi's California home — and the president has asserted there is a wall around former President Barack Obama's Washington, D.C., home — there is no wall encircling either. The front of the Obamas' home is easily visible in photos, and the walled-off house pictured in the meme is not actually Pelosi's, PolitiFact reported, rating the claim "pants on fire."
Trump takes a swipe at Mueller investigation
He didn’t call it a "witch hunt." But Trump took a veiled swipe at special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation while calling for unity and touting his administration’s domestic accomplishments on jobs and the economy.
“An economic miracle is taking place in the United States and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations,” he said. “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.”
It's reminiscent of President Richard Nixon criticizing the Watergate investigation in his 1974 State of the Union speech, in which he said, "One year of Watergate is enough."
Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and presidential historian Michael Beschloss swiftly rebutted the president in tweets on Twitter.
"What the President calls 'ridiculous partisan investigations' the American people call the search for truth," Deutch said.
Beschloss chimed in: "Nixon in 1974 waited until near the end of his State of the Union to insist that the Watergate investigation be called off."
Fact check: Trump takes credit for criminal justice reform
"Both parties united for criminal justice reform. They said it couldn't be done," Trump said Tuesday night.
Trump is correct that he signed the first major overhaul of prison sentencing in decades. That legislation, the First Step Act, includes provisions for sentencing reform such as shortening some mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses and addressing racial disparities in the federal prison system.
It's also true that lawmakers tried and failed to pass a similar package of reforms during Obama’s second term, but it was Republicans who blocked that bill despite general bipartisan support for the measure.
That consensus legislation was introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., in 2015. It had the support of then-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, the Koch brothers, and President Barack Obama.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was reluctant to bring the issue up for a vote during the tumultuous 2016 election, and a handful of GOP lawmakers — including Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Jeff Sessions of Alabama —led the charge to argue that the bill would result in the release of violent criminals. The bill never saw a vote during Obama’s presidency as a result.
In 2018, however, Trump — with significant lobbying from his son-in-law Jared Kushner — backed the bill, prompting McConnell to agree to bring the bill to the floor.
Some advocates, while still supportive of the effort, argued that it does not go far enough.
For starters, the bill only addresses the federal prison population, which only makes up about 12 percent of incarcerated individuals in the U.S.
Analysis: Trump lists wins but tax season may bring reality check for Americans
As the president appeared to declare himself victorious in every conceivable way, Trump also added that he'd passed tax cuts for families and that the economy is booming.
Well, that sounds just dandy. But as Americans are filling out their tax returns this season, many are learning — or will learn — that they were suckered by Trump and are paying more taxes, not less. As Barron’s recently reported in an analysis of Trump’s tax reform: “Despite efficiency gains overall, the poorest households can expect to be worse off because of the tax reform. The richest households will fare better, in large part because they own corporate stocks.”
There is little that Trump can say tonight that will make middle- and low-income taxpayers feel better about being fleeced. The punch to their economic gut will stay with them far longer than any of Trump’s rhetoric.
David Corn is the Washington, D.C., bureau chief for Mother Jones.
Fact check: Trump says nothing can compete with America's economy
Trump said Tuesday night that "there's nothing anywhere in the world that can compete with America," before later saying the U.S. is experiencing an economic miracle.
While the U.S. economy has been strong overall, it’s not the fastest-growing economy in the world, and some argue that it’s not actually the biggest, either.
According to the International Monetary Fund’s most recent estimates in its World Economic Outlook, India is projected to have the highest rate of economic growth among major economies in 2019 and 2020, at somewhere around 7.5 to 7.7 percent GDP growth rate. China is projected around 6.2 percent growth in 2019 and 2020. The United States, meanwhile, clocks in at just a 2.5 percent rate in 2019 and 1.8 percent in 2020.
The United States does have the highest nominal GDP of any country in the world, per the IMF. That measure does not take into account cost of living in various countries, so many economists also use a measure called purchasing power parity, which adjusts gross domestic product for lower consumer prices and standards of living. Using that measure, China surpassed the United States as the biggest economy in the world back in 2014.
Fact check: Trump boasts of energy 'revolution,' says U.S. is now No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas
Trump said Tuesday night that "we have unleashed a revolution in American energy — the United States is now the No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas in the world."
While it's true that U.S. is the leading producer of both oil and gas in the world, the president is claiming undue credit. That's been the case since the middle of the Obama administration.
But that's not a recent phenomenon, either. The U.S. has topped the production charts in both categories since 2013 (for petroleum) and 2011 (for natural gas).
Fact check: Under Trump, African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans have seen lowest unemployment rates
It is true that unemployment rates for black and Hispanic Americans hit record lows last year, although this economic trend is not new.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment percentages for blacks, Hispanics, and Asians have been noticeably decreasing since 2010 and continue to do so.
According to the most recent information from BLS, in January of 2019, the black unemployment rate stood at 6.8 percent. Last May, it dropped to 5.9 percent, the lowest percentage ever recorded. Similarly, the current unemployment rate for Hispanic Americans leaves them at 4.9 percent, up from a record low of 4.4 percent in October and December 2018. In addition, Asian unemployment rates remain low at 3.1 percent in January 2019, up from a low of 2.2 percent in May 2018.
Among women over 20, the unemployment rate in January 2019 was at 3.6 percent. That's up from a low of 3.3 percent in May and September of last year.
Despite these numbers, current and former White House economists have debated the legitimacy of Trump’s claims that his administration, versus the Obama administration, has been the cause of this economic success.
Austan Goolsbee, the former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors for President Obama called the numbers “a continuation of a steady trend.”
Fact check: Trump claims unemployment is at its lowest rate in 'half a century'
Unemployment is currently near a 50 year low, though it's notably a continuation of a strong growth trend begun after the recession ended in 2010.
When unemployment ticked down to 3.7 percent in September 2018, that indeed marked the lowest jobless rate since December 1969, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the jobless rate has since ticked back up to 4 percent in January, which is above the 3.8 percent achieved in the Clinton administration in April 2000.
It's certainly true that the economy is much improved from a decade ago. Joblessness has steadily declined since the end of the economic recession in 2010.
But it’s a fuzzier picture when it comes to whether Trump deserves credit for the low unemployment rate or whether he has continued a trend started by the Obama administration. In the 24 months since Trump has been in office, total nonfarm employment has grown by nearly 4.9 million. Over the same period of time (24 months) at the end of Obama’s tenure, total nonfarm employment grew by about 5.1 million.
Fact check: Trump says he launched an 'unprecedented economic boom'
“In just over two years since the election, we have launched an unprecedented economic boom — a boom that has rarely been seen before,” Trump said.
Trump took office amid a booming economy, and he’s been taking credit for it since day one. But there’s no evidence he created this boom. Some economists argue he boosted growth with tax cuts — turbocharging an already booming economy — while others argue the government shutdown, tariffs, and trade war have slowed growth.
Most can agree, however, that Trump’s economy — something he touts among his biggest successes — has been built upon the upward trajectory that began under President Barack Obama.
And while America’s economy is strong, it has grown at a faster rate in previous years. In 1983, for example, the nation's annual GDP was 7.9 percent. In the second quarter of 2018, the GDP was 4.2 percent.
Fact check: Trump's administration has created 600,000 manufacturing jobs
Trump's figure is close. The U.S. has added 454,000 manufacturing jobs since Trump took office in January 2017, some of the biggest gains in twenty years, according to jobs data. Trump’s numbers mark an acceleration of a trend that began in 2010.
Still, after decades of automation and change to the industry in the U.S., manufacturing is a much smaller part of the country’s economy than it was decades ago. While 19.5 million people were employed in the manufacturing industry in 1979, there were 12.8 million Americans in the industry in late 2018.
Trump honors Buzz Aldrin and three World War II veterans
“This year American astronauts will go back to space on American rockets,” Trump said, in an apparent nod to his plan to create a “Space Force.”
The entire chamber rose to its feet at the mention of several heroes: three veterans of D-Day, 75 years after the invasion of Europe, and former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, 50 years after the first mission to the moon.
We're closing in on peak 'America' in State of the Union addresses
America the overused.
"America" is mentioned so often in recent State of the Union speeches that if you count it up and average it out, in the last two decades (since Bill Clinton's 1998 address), presidents average 69 mentions of the country's name per State of the Union.
That's a lotta America.
Jimmy Carter set the ceiling for "America" mentions with 96 in his farewell, written-form 1981 State of the Union. Among the oral addresses, Barack Obama's 2012 State of the Union set the record with 89 mentions.
Nancy Pelosi’s unusual brooch: The Mace of the House
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is wearing a brooch representing the ceremonial Mace of the House of Representatives.
The mace is a symbol of the House’s authority and this one has been used since 1841, after the original mace was destroyed when the British burned Washington during the War of 1812, according to the official historian of the House.
The symbol of the mace is often used by speakers of both parties on press releases and official communications. The actual mace is presumably kept secure to avoid a situation like the one in the British Parliament in December when one of their members stole the ceremonial mace in protest.
Rick Perry is the designated survivor
Energy Secretary Rick Perry is the Cabinet member who will serve as the "designated survivor" during tonight's State of the Union address, an administration official confirmed to NBC News.
One Cabinet member does not attend the address so that there can be continuity of government in case of a catastrophic disaster or attack at the Capitol.
Last year, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue served as the designated survivor.
The scene inside the chamber before Trump arrives
There's an air of collegiality in the House chamber before Trump arrives.
Inside the lower chamber, senators and representatives are all smiles and handshakes as they work the room. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., took a selfie with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Democratic women lawmakers are in all white. Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky are hobnobbing. Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota is seen buzzing around the room shaking hands. Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky huddling is with Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
And Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, still has his famous beard.
The Trump family is ready
Eric Trump tweeted out a photo of "Team Trump" ready for tonight's speech.
The photo drew some attention on social media, where people pointed out that Tiffany Trump was wearing all white — just like many Democratic congresswomen.
White House releases excerpts from Trump's speech
The White House released some brief excerpts from Trump's State of the Union address ahead of his delivery tonight.
Here are some of the highlights:
"The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat agenda. It is the agenda of the American people."
"In the 20th century, America saved freedom, transformed science, and redefined the middle class standard of living for the entire world to see. Now, we must step boldly and bravely into the next chapter of this great American adventure, and we must create a new standard of living for the 21st century."
"We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens."
"No issue better illustrates the divide between America’s working class and America’s political class than illegal immigration. Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards."
"To build on our incredible economic success, one priority is paramount: reversing decades of calamitous trade policies."
"Both parties should be able to unite for a great rebuilding of America’s crumbling infrastructure."
"It is unacceptable that Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same place. This is wrong, unfair, and together we can stop it."
"As a candidate for President, I pledged a new approach. Great nations do not fight endless wars."
"We will not avert our eyes from a regime that chants death to America and threatens genocide against the Jewish people."
Democratic leadership released excerpts from former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams ahead of her rebuttal to Trump. Here are some highlights from that speech:
"Our power and strength as Americans lives in our hard work and our belief in more."
"My family understood firsthand that while success is not guaranteed, we live in a nation where opportunity is possible."
"But we do not succeed alone — in these United States, when times are tough, we can persevere because our friends and neighbors will come for us."
"Just a few weeks ago, I joined volunteers to distribute meals to furloughed federal workers. They waited in line for a box of food and a sliver of hope since they hadn’t received a paycheck in weeks."
"Making their livelihoods a pawn for political games is a disgrace."
"The shutdown was a stunt engineered by the president of the United States, one that defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people — but our values."
Kamala Harris predicts a Trump State of the Union address filled with "insincere appeals to unity"
California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, one of the party's presidential hopefuls, pre-butted President Trump's State of the Union address by predicting Trump will give "insincere appeals to unity"
Speaking in an address live-streamed on her Facebook page less than an hour before Trump was scheduled to take the stage, Harris called on leaders like Trump to address issues like criminal justice, climate change and intolerance. She cast doubt on the idea of Trump's speech including those calls.
"If last year’s remarks are any guide, we’re in store not for a speech that’ll seek to draw us together as Americans, but one that seeks to score political points by driving us apart,” Harris said.
"No matter what we hear tonight, I want everyone to remember this — the strength of our union has never been found in the walls we build. It's in our diversity and our unity."
Larry Nassar survivor attending the State of the Union
Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., will bring Amanda Thomashow as her guest to the State of the Union. Thomashow is a former Michigan State University gymnast who reported now-convicted sexual abuser Larry Nassar to the university in 2014.
Thomashow said in court last year, "Michigan State University, the school I loved and trusted, had the audacity to tell me that I did not understand the difference between sexual assault and a medical procedure." She coined the phrase “army of survivors” in a statement at Nassar’s sentencing, which has become a rallying call for sexual assault survivors and advocates.
In her short tenure in Congress, Slotkin has been a vocal critic of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ proposed rule changes for how colleges and universities handle sexual harassment accusations. Thomashow is one of several guests who were invited to the speech to highlight sexual assault awareness.
Analysis: Why foreign leaders will be watching very closely
There are many reasons to be disillusioned with the state of American democracy. After all, the country could be just days away from another federal government shutdown after weathering the longest in U.S. history.
That's why tonight’s State of the Union takes on increased importance for one audience in particular: foreign leaders who are desperately looking for signs that our nation is still fairly functional.
Despite their deep differences, members of both parties will come together for the address. Each side will be given the chance to speak to the nation. Democrats, who sparred bitterly these last several weeks with the president, will attend and listen to his speech. At a time when the world’s confidence in our leadership has been badly shaken, this seemingly standard spectacle can and should be a source of strength. Both parties should embrace this opportunity to remind themselves and those watching overseas that even a deeply divided nation can come together sometimes.
Brett Bruen is a former U.S. diplomat and former White House director of global engagement.
Analysis: The president has an opportunity for a reset tonight
Every State of the Union address is an opportunity for the president to reset the national debate and set the tone. Few times in our history has that been so important as it is at this moment given the deep divisions in our country and the toxicity of our politics. The president should take initiative and recognize the broken nature of our politics -- the fact that we are coming off the heels of the longest partial government shutdown ever. He should also offer concrete compromises on immigration (the most toxic and divisive issue in or country today) and infrastructure, still ripe for bipartisan agreement. Only major policy achievements will begin restoring people's trust and confidence in our government.
Carlos Curbelo is a former Republican congressman from South Florida.
Analysis: A State of the Union to a worried world
The world will be watching Trump’s State of the Union address tonight. Will we see hints of humility, that the signs that the tradeoffs from his tiffs and tariffs have started to sink in? While many expect the president will simply continue to blow past signs warning trouble ahead, I think we will see a medley of isolationist inclinations mixed in with a touch of realism.
There are few international successes that Trump can point to from his first two years. North Korea paused its missile tests. Yet Saudi Arabia has gotten away with a brazen murder. Russia is on the rise. And there has been talk of the possibility of NATO’s demise. Meanwhile, the US has abandoned commitments to rein in climate change, intermediate range nuclear weapons, and Iran’s nuclear arsenal.
We are past the point when the president can pass off “cleaning up the other guy’s mess” as a foreign policy accomplishment. Trump needs his own win on the world stage. We may hear signs tonight of what he has in mind. The administration is likely to try and present their work on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement, China, Venezuela, and Afghanistan as evidence that they are able to also build, not just bust deals.
Brett Bruen is a former U.S. diplomat and former White House director of global engagement under President Barack Obama.
Analysis: Unity, comity, but will Trump invoke his wall?
Unity and comity are the buzzwords for tonight’s State of the Union address, along with “pivot,” which is President Trump’s mission as he stands before the Congress and the country.
This is when a president gets to lay out his legislative agenda: Taking on the drug companies is popular with both parties, and an expected announcement on a new HIV/Aids initiative is significant.
But let’s be honest: We’re all watching to see if Trump doubles down on the wall and sets the stage for a national emergency. He won’t invoke that tonight, but it’s the best worst option to extricate himself from the box he’s put himself into. If it’s slapped back by the courts, he can go into 2020 saying he did everything he could, and then blame the Democrats and liberal justices. “Re-elect Trump and Build the Wall” -- perfect bumper sticker.
Eleanor Clift is a longtime political reporter, author and columnist for The Daily Beast.
Analysis: What matters to Trump tonight
Forget truth; all that matters is whether a particular word at a particular moment serves a particular interest (or impulse) of Donald Trump (see here). Consequently, it is tough to know what to make of a State of the Union speech by this president — and whether to care about anything he reads off the teleprompter.
In last year’s SOTU, Trump proclaimed, “I call on 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.” He then spent a year continuing his me-first politics of bullying, name-calling, and fear-peddling demagoguery. So why would you believe whatever he says in tonight’s collection of words?
David Corn is the Washington, D.C., bureau chief for Mother Jones.
Analysis: How Trump can win the State of the Union
If you thought Super Bowl LIII was hyped, it is nothing compared to this post-shutdown State of the Union address. Trump is at his best in unscripted settings, usually when matched with one or more antagonists. It is his competitive nature to turn an interview into a confrontation, a verbal wrestling match, and although the fact checkers always think POTUS loses these scrums, usually it is a split decision among viewers.
Set-piece speeches, though, are rarely home runs for the president. Tonight could be different if he is 1) gracious towards the once and once-again House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 2) self-effacing at least a couple of times, 3) specific on the booming economy 4) detailed in his explanation about the urgency of the situation at the border and 5) focused on freedom for Venezuela.
If he commits to another big hike in defense spending and — again — to a 355-ship Navy, that would be icing on the cake. But I’m not expecting minds to change or approval ratings to soar or fall. American politics are frozen, waiting for a spring thaw.
Hugh Hewitt is a conservative columnist, radio host and attorney.
Ocasio-Cortez bringing Kavanaugh critic who confronted Flake in elevator
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's guest for the State of the Union will be a sexual assault survivor who made headlines protesting his nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Ana Maria Archila says she is "honored" to be the guest of the star freshman Democrat from New York and will sit in the gallery overlooking the chamber during Trump's address. She said she will wear white and a pin that the congresswoman gave her that says, "Well behaved women rarely make history."
Archila cornered then-Sen. Jeff Flake at a Senate elevator in September and pleaded for the Republican lawmaker to reconsider voting for Kavanaugh, who was accused by Christine Blasey Ford of sexual assault. Ford told the Senate Kavanaugh had assaulted her at a gathering of teenagers when they were in high school in the early 1980s. Kavanaugh angrily denied the accusations during emotional testimony.
Americans search for abortion, health care in run-up to SOTU
Americans googled for information on abortion and health care in the week ahead of the State of the Union, according to data from Google Trends.
The search data highlights anticipation for Trump to touch on growing furor from conservatives over a new abortion bill in New York as well as on efforts by Republicans in a variety of states to roll back abortion access.
Health care remains the most searched topic as of Tuesday evening, with immigration coming in third. Either abortion or health care were the most searched topics in most U.S. states, according to Google data.
The dominance of those topics is also notable since they could break a long-running trend, with Google showing that in pervious years "jobs" and "taxes" dominated searches during the speech.
2020 contenders take aim at Trump with SOTU guests
Members of Congress who'd like to take President Donald Trump's place in 2021 planned to deliver messages of their own Tuesday at his second State of the Union with the string of guests they invited to hear the address live at the Capitol.
Some guests were invited to highlight the recent government shutdown over Trump's border wall request, which resulted in the speech's delay from its initial January date. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., planned to bring air-traffic controller Trisha Pesiri-Dybvik, one of the 800,000 federal workers furloughed last month and a victim of the California wildfires. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., was bringing Sajid Shahriar, a labor leader who organized rallies last month calling for the government to re-open.
Other guests of potential Trump rivals were to include those currently affected by policies advocated — or opposed — by the president. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. — who plans to introduce legislation pushing back on Trump's ban on transgender service members — announced she is bringing Navy Lt. Comdr. Blake Dremann, a decorated transgender service member who was deployed 11 times and received the Navy's highest logistics award. READ MORE
For a full list of who's bringing whom to the speech, click here.
Democratic women send political message by wearing white to Trump’s speech
The chair of the House Democratic Women’s Working Group is urging female lawmakers to wear “suffragette white” to President Donald Trump’s second State of the Union speech.
“We’ll honor all those who came before us and send a message of solidarity that we’re not going back on our hard-earned rights,” Florida Rep. Lois Frankel wrote on Twitter last week.
Frankel's congressional group, which includes all Democratic women in the House, seeks to advance such issues as equal pay for women, paid family leave and reproductive rights. Democratic congresswomen also wore white to Trump's first address to Congress in 2017 in a symbolic gesture remembering the woman's suffrage movement. Last year, they wore black as a sign of solidarity with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
On Monday, Frankel announced that her guest to the speech will be Kim Churches, the CEO of the American Association of University Women, a nonprofit that promotes equity for women.
Kavanaugh among 4 Supreme Court justices to attend SOTU
Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh is among the group of four Supreme Court justices who will attend President Donald Trump's State of the Union address on Tuesday.
Kavanaugh, the newest member of the court, is joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch.
Last year, Trump's address was attended by Roberts, Kagan, Gorsuch and Justice Stephen Breyer.
Trump adversary Xavier Becerra to 'go for the fences' in Spanish-language rebuttal
When California's attorney general counters the president’s State of the Union address with the Democrats' Spanish language rebuttal on Tuesday, it won’t be the first time Xavier Becerra has taken swings at Donald Trump's policies. According to Democrats, Becerra has filed more than 100 legal actions — 45 of them lawsuits — against the Trump administration.
Becerra will deliver his response live on Spanish-language media outlets Tuesday night -- the first time the Spanish-language Democratic response has been delivered live, a Democratic aide said. NBC News' sister network Telemundo, as well as Univision, will air his speech after the president's 9 p.m. EST speech ends.
Becerra told NBC News that those who tune in can expect some tough talk: "I always go for the fences, and this won't be any different.” He added that Americans "don't have to be hoodwinked on what the true state of the union is when it's not so good.”
Stacey Abrams to deliver Democratic response to Trump State of the Union
Stacey Abrams, who lost a razor-thin race for governor in Georgia in November, will deliver the official Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address to Congress next week.
Abrams, 45, would have been the first female black governor in the country. She lost to Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican who was the Georgia secretary of state during the campaign, by less than 55,000 votes.
"I plan to deliver a vision for prosperity and equality, where everyone in our nation has a voice and where each of those voices is heard,” she said in a Tuesday statement on the coming speech.
Contributors to tonight’s State of the Union live blog
Several contributors will be joining NBC News’ live blog of the president’s State of the Union speech tonight to provide their analysis and insights: Jonathan Alter is an author, presidential historian and columnist for The Daily Beast; Hugh Hewitt is a conservative columnist, radio host and attorney; Eleanor Clift is a longtime political reporter, author and columnist for The Daily Beast; Carlos Curbelo is a former Republican congressman from South Florida; David Corn is the Washington, D.C., bureau chief for Mother Jones; Genevieve Wood is a senior policy adviser and spokesperson for the Heritage Foundation; Maria Teresa Kumar is the CEO of the civic media group Voto Latino; and Brett Bruen is a former U.S. diplomat and former White House director of global engagement.
Trump’s State of the Union: 5 things to watch
Halfway through his term, and with Democrats clambering into the nomination fight for the right to try to oust him in 2020, President Donald Trump will address Congress and the nation in his annual State of the Union address Tuesday.
It's a chance for Trump to set his agenda for the year and beyond — to frame the story of his presidency so far as he gears up for another campaign.
He'll do that at a moment that seems to call for some presidential spin. Trump is coming off a five-week partial government shutdown that he once promised he would be "proud" to force, in what turned out to be an ill-fated attempt to gain leverage over congressional Democrats in his quest to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.
Here are at least five questions likely to be answered when Trump steps up to the House rostrum Tuesday night.