Trump pledges to 'make America great again for all Americans'

President Donald Trump sought to infuse ...

Posted: Jan 31, 2018 10:07 AM
Updated: Jan 31, 2018 10:07 AM

President Donald Trump sought to infuse his maiden State of the Union address Tuesday with an undercurrent of optimism, issuing a call for Democrats and Republicans to look past deep national divisions in order to do good by the American people.

Even as he worked to bridge growing national schisms, however, Trump didn't avoid the dark warnings about immigrants and nods to populist nationalism that have helped foment disunity over the past year.

Over the course of his 80-minute address -- one of the longest-running State of the Union speeches in history -- Trump heralded the economic successes of his first year in office, including a soaring stock market and low unemployment. He trumpeted the large package of tax cuts he signed into law last year and proclaimed that a regulatory rollback has allowed industries to thrive. And he staged several emotional moments with invited guests sitting in the first lady's box, including the parents of Otto Warmbier, who died after being returned to the United States by his North Korean captors.

The evening began with a precedent-breaking move by Melania Trump: instead of riding to the Capitol with her husband, the first lady arrived to the building early to meet privately with her invited guests.

And while Trump offered the traditional assessment of American strength -- "the state of our union is strong because our people are strong" -- Trump did little to acknowledge that his presidency has been decidedly nontraditional. He climbed the dais in the Capitol with one of the lowest approval ratings for any first-term president. His presidency continues to be clouded by investigations into his campaign's ties to Russia.

Trump sought to look past those facts and toward a future marked by unity and inclusion.

"This, in fact, is our new American moment," Trump said in his remarks, which rarely strayed from the prepared text loaded into his teleprompter. "There has never been a better time to start living the American dream."

Can optimism last?

The moments of soaring optimism from the President stood in stark contrast to the message he often delivers on Twitter. It remained an open question how long the applause, which echoed in the House chamber, would linger, given the hard edges surrounding many of his policies.

Only a month after his first address to a joint session of Congress a year ago, Trump accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping his conversations, a sign that behavior cannot be judged on one speech or one evening alone.

Tuesday's speech, laced with American stories of triumph and tragedy, did not mask the President's priorities or how he views issues like immigration. Even while pledging to extend "an open hand to work with members of both parties," Trump made clear his hard-line on immigration would take precedent over the "bill of love" that he mentioned earlier this month. And he devoted more time to MS-13 gang violence than he did to telling the stories of successful immigrants who have thrived in America.

"My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans -- to protect their safety, their families, their communities and their right to the American Dream," Trump said as he outlined a plan that would allow up to 1.8 undocumented immigrants to remain in the country while funding a border wall, ending the visa lottery system and reforming family immigration rules.

But he was booed by Democrats when he used the fraught term "chain migration," and he laid bare the nationalist undertones of his policy by declaring "Americans are dreamers, too."

The remarks seemed unlikely to produce agreement between Republicans and Democrats, who will have to come together in some form to pass an immigration law. He didn't offer a pathway -- or even a head start -- toward solving the immigration impasse for the "Dreamers," which Democrats have insisted must be tied to a long-term government funding bill.

Trump also did not avoid oblique references to the divisive topics that have salted his first year in office, including the controversy over football players kneeling during the National Anthem.

Saluting a 12-year-old guest who spearheaded an effort to place flags on veterans' gravestones, Trump said the student's actions reminded all Americans of their "civic duty."

"Preston's reverence for those who have served our nation reminds us why we salute our flag, why we put our hands on our hearts for the pledge of allegiance, and why we proudly stand for the National Anthem," he said, to applause from Republican lawmakers in the crowd.

Highest-profile platform

A president's State of the Union is typically his highest-profile platform of the year, and viewership is generally higher in the first part of a presidency. But television ratings for the speech have steadily fallen over the decades, and Trump has shown a penchant for bypassing traditional communication channels in favor of social media.

If the State of the Union has assumed a reduced importance, however, there were no signs the White House took it any less seriously. For months, Trump fed handwritten notes with lines for the speech to his team of speechwriters, a White House official said.

In his speech, Trump called on lawmakers to approve a $1.5 trillion infrastructure package and touted his work on health care and in naming a new justice to the US Supreme Court.

President Trump's approval rating edges up to 40%, according to a CNN Poll

Trump spoke most extensively about domestic affairs, but did reserve the final section of his address for foreign matters. He touted successes in battling back ISIS and again denounced the Iran nuclear deal. And he warned that North Korea could "very soon" be capable of threatening the US homeland with nuclear weapons.

"Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation," Trump said of North Korea. "I will not repeat the mistakes of the past administrations that got us into this dangerous position."

Trump practiced delivering the address from the Map Room on Monday, the official said. Trump's predecessors also rehearsed their addresses from a mock podium and teleprompter set up in the White House basement room.

A team of speechwriters and top policy aides helped Trump craft his address, White House officials said. They included National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and staff secretary Rob Porter.

Trump first reviewed a draft of his State of the Union address in December, and has made handwritten edits in recent days with black felt tip pens. In the last several weeks, Trump has workshopped ideas for the speech or edited certain sections while in the residence at night, handing over his changes to staffers the next day.

'United'

Democrats selected Rep. Joe Kennedy III, a grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, to deliver the traditional response to the President's speech.

"Bullies may land a punch. They might leave a mark," the lawmaker said before a live audience gathered at a Fall River, Massachusetts, technical school. "But 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."

A number of other responses were also planned, including by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent Vermont senator who ran for President in 2016. A number of Democrats boycotted the speech.

Above the House floor, the administration's hosted guests in the first lady's box meant to illustrate policy objectives. This year the roster included a firefighter who helped battle blazes in California and the parents of teens killed by the MS-13 gang.

Melania Trump's State of the Union guests

The first lady herself also attended the speech. Ordinarily, Melania Trump's presence at the State of the Union would not be notable -- but she hasn't appeared in public with her husband since reports emerged last week that Trump allegedly had an affair with a porn star.

Melania Trump arrived at the Capitol separately from her husband so she could meet one-on-one with the invited guests. Presidents and first ladies typically travel to the speech together.

CNN's Jim Acosta, Kaitlan Collins, and Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7143160
DeSoto559460
Harrison388374
Jackson350570
Madison331089
Rankin330679
Lee273670
Forrest248973
Jones248779
Washington225977
Lafayette219139
Lauderdale2059125
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Oktibbeha179952
Lamar171635
Lowndes158058
Neshoba1579104
Panola149930
Sunflower147146
Leflore141081
Warren140750
Pontotoc127816
Pike124051
Monroe123568
Copiah119133
Scott117627
Coahoma116329
Marshall110617
Lincoln110253
Holmes109859
Grenada109036
Yazoo106230
Simpson104646
Tate100437
Union99824
Leake96038
Adams94137
Wayne90421
Pearl River89253
Marion86535
Prentiss86217
Covington82722
Itawamba82621
Alcorn82011
George78013
Tallahatchie77321
Newton77224
Winston74219
Tishomingo69038
Chickasaw68424
Tippah67117
Attala66725
Walthall60126
Clarke60046
Clay59518
Hancock58722
Jasper57515
Noxubee55116
Smith53415
Calhoun52112
Tunica49715
Claiborne46516
Montgomery46420
Yalobusha43514
Lawrence43313
Perry42419
Greene38817
Humphreys37715
Quitman3775
Stone37412
Jefferson Davis34211
Webster33813
Amite33210
Carroll31912
Wilkinson30518
Kemper29015
Sharkey26613
Jefferson2439
Benton2273
Franklin1933
Choctaw1866
Issaquena1053
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 134231

Reported Deaths: 2357
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19676351
Mobile13373292
Montgomery8834184
Tuscaloosa8621118
Madison788178
Shelby597849
Lee589760
Baldwin547750
Marshall394343
Calhoun351544
Etowah349045
Morgan329228
Houston290321
Elmore266748
DeKalb241621
St. Clair232235
Walker231684
Talladega216629
Limestone210120
Cullman189920
Dallas179026
Franklin177129
Autauga176425
Russell17603
Lauderdale171333
Colbert164626
Blount161115
Escambia160824
Chilton158530
Jackson157511
Covington140127
Dale138644
Coffee13486
Pike119810
Chambers116442
Tallapoosa116085
Clarke109116
Marion96429
Butler91239
Barbour8827
Winston74412
Marengo72020
Pickens66214
Bibb65410
Lowndes65327
Randolph64713
Hale63528
Geneva6254
Lawrence62023
Cherokee60813
Bullock60414
Monroe5898
Clay5858
Washington55713
Perry5416
Crenshaw53732
Conecuh53511
Wilcox53111
Henry5055
Macon48018
Fayette4578
Sumter43819
Cleburne3805
Lamar3672
Choctaw34712
Greene30315
Coosa1713
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