- President Donald Trump focused heavily on immigration in his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening.
- Trump seemed to call for unity during his speech as he simultaneously slammed his opponents on an array of issues.
- The president also discussed foreign policy at length, touching on North Korea, Venezuela, Russia, Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan.
- “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,” Trump said. “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way!”
- Reacting to contradictory sentiments in Trump’s speech, Democratic Sen. Chris Coons described it as “a slap in the face with an olive branch.”
- Follow along with all of INSIDER’s coverage of the State of the Union here.
President Donald Trump in his second State of the Union address on Tuesday night declared, “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.”
Trump started his speech off calling for unity, expressing optimism that cooperation can help break “decades of political stalemate.”
The president said he hoped Democrats and Republicans could come together and govern not as “two parties” but as “one nation.”
“Victory is not winning for our party, victory is winning for our country,” Trump said.
“We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future,” the president added. “The decision is ours to make.”
But it wasn’t long until Trump’s speech morphed into a verbal assault on his opponents, particularly those who’ve taken a stand against him on immigration.
Reacting to contradictory sentiments in Trump’s speech, Democratic Sen. Chris Coons described it as “a slap in the face with an olive branch.”
The theme of Trump’s address was “choose greatness.”
Trump, who has a long, well-documented history of publicly lashing out at his opponents, said Americans “must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution – and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good.”
The president called for the US to create a “new standard of living” for the 21st century as he touted the state of the US economy, which he claimed is the “hottest” in the world. He also celebrated a recent bipartisan criminal justice bill: “They said it couldn’t be done.”
Trump declared the “State of our Union is strong” less than a month after the longest government shutdown in US history, prompting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to shake her head in the background.
The president moments later seemed to take a jab at special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference.
“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,” Trump said. “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way!”
— Caroline Orr (@RVAwonk) February 6, 2019
A ‘moral duty’ to address undocumented immigration
Republicans and Democrats must come together to address an “urgent national crisis,” Trump said as he touched on the issue of immigration.
“Now is the time to show the world that America is committed to ending illegal immigration,” Trump said, reiterating his claims that undocumented immigration poses a threat to the physical and financial safety of the US, despite a wide set of data that contradicts his assertions.
Trump said the US has a “moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens.”
He rebuked those who do not support his desire to see a wall built along the southern border.
“No issue better illustrates the divide between America’s working class and America’s political class than illegal immigration,” Trump said. “Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards.”
“Walls work and walls save lives,” the president contended. “So let’s work together, compromise, and reach a deal that will truly make America safe.” Experts widely agree that a wall would not effectively address the myriad issues the US faces regarding undocumented immigration.
North Korea, Venezuela, Russia, and Iran
During his speech, Trump announced the date and venue of his upcoming meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He’s set to meet with Kim in Vietnam on February 27 and 28.
“As part of a bold new diplomacy, we continue our historic push for peace on the Korean Peninsula. Our hostages have come home, nuclear testing has stopped, and there has not been a missile launch in 15 months,” Trump said.
“If I had not been elected President of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea with potentially millions of people killed,” Trump added. “Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jong Un is a good one.”
Trump also expressed America’s solidarity with those opposing the socialist, authoritarian government of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.
“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.
Meanwhile, Trump defended his administration’s decision to withdraw the US from a landmark Reagan-era nuclear treaty with Russia.
“Decades ago the United States entered into a treaty with Russia in which we agreed to limit and reduce our missile capabilities,” Trump said. “While we followed the agreement to the letter, Russia repeatedly violated its terms. That is why I announced that the United States is officially withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF Treaty.”
Trump said that perhaps a new deal could be negotiated in the future.
As he’s often done when on the national stage, Trump also took the opportunity to denounce the government of Iran, emphasising his decision to pull the US out of the historic Iran nuclear deal orchestrated by the Obama administration – a move that was decried by many key US allies.
“We will not avert our eyes from a regime that chants death to America and threatens genocide against the Jewish people,” Trump said in reference to Iran.
No more ‘endless wars’
Trump’s Tuesday night address came as he’s faced criticism over plans to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan.
Apparently referring to the US’ involvement in the two long-standing conflicts, Trump said, “As a candidate for president, I pledged a new approach. Great nations do not fight endless wars.”
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) February 6, 2019
Trump added that “after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace.”
The president in late December abruptly announced a plan to withdraw the roughly US 2,000 troops in Syria and around half of the approximately 14,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan. In the process, he falsely claimed ISIS had been totally defeated.
The move prompted panic in Washington, seemed to inspire the resignation of James Mattis as defence secretary, and has seen many of Trump’s top Republican allies in Congress slam his foreign policy.
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