Standing before lawmakers in the grand-domed Capitol where his impeachment trial is still underway, U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday night will declare the state of the union strong, even when it is bitterly divided as he asks Americans for a second term.
After becoming just the third president in U.S. history to be impeached, Trump will try to move forward, aides say, offering an optimistic message that stresses economic growth in his annual address before Congress.
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But the impeachment drama will hang over him as he stands before the very lawmakers who have voted to remove him from office — and those who are expected to acquit him Wednesday when the Senate trial comes to a close. Any attempt to try to be a messenger for unity will surely be dismissed at a time of palpable anger and rancor, much of which he has helped generate on both sides of the divide.
Senior administration officials were tight-lipped about the extent to which Trump would mention h is impeachment, which he has denounced as a “witch hunt” orchestrated by Democrats to try to undo the results of the 2016 election and harm his reelection chances this November. They stressed this his prime-time speech was still a work in progress.
But they said Trump sees the speech as an opportunity to talk about moving the country ahead, contrast his vision with Democrats’ and try to make the case to voters that he deserves four more years in the White House.
“This has been a very partisan process and this is an opportunity for him to unify the country around opportunities for all Americans,” said White House spokeswoman Jessica Ditto.
Trump will spend much of the speech highlighting the economy’s strength, including the low employment rate, stressing how it has helped blue-collar workers and the middle class. A focus will be the new trade agreements he has negotiated, including his phase-one deal with China and the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement he signed last week.
It’s a familiar message to anyone who has ever tuned into one of the president’s rallies. But it’s one the White House believes will reach a broader audience and have a more potent impact given the venue, especially among independent voters. His campaign has been courting these voters as it works to stitch together a winning coalition for his reelection.
“Once again, it will present that opportunity for the American people to see how much has been done that not necessarily has been showcased,” said Ditto. “This is one of the president’s best opportunities to talk about his record unfiltered with a captive audience.”
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The speech will include a section on health care. Aides say Trump is expected to go after what one official described as the “radical proposals being floated on the left,” including the call by some Democratic presidential candidates for “Medicare for All.” He will highlight efforts to reduce drug prices, end surprise medical billing and tackle the opioid epidemic, urging members of Congress to pass legislation to back his efforts.