Donald Trump vows to put aside Republican interests and govern with a cross-party agenda to bring an end to “decades of political stalemate” in his first State of the Union in a divided Congress.
The US president named reducing “unfair” prescription drug prices and rebuilding the countries “crumbling” infrastructure as domestic priorities which both parties could get behind.
“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,” Mr Trump told the chamber.
He added: “Together, we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make”.
Mr Trump said that in the last two years his administration had been focused on confronting problems “neglected by leaders of BOTH parties over many decades”.
But he lashed out at critics of his border wall, saying: “Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards.”
And he doubled down on his controversial decision to pull US troops out of Syria, saying: “Great nations do not fight endless wars.”
However his message of unity is likely to ring hollow with Democrats determined to block his push for a border wall. The US president’s political opponents invited transgender soldiers, climate change scientists and undocumented migrants to the address, underscoring their rejection of key parts of his policy agenda.
Mr Trump’s own guests included the family of a woman murdered by an illegal migrant, the manager of a sawmill that recently reopened and a former opioid addict, highlighting his own priorities in office.
For Mr Trump, the focus on reaching across the aisle is a tacit admission from the White House that Mr Trump may need a course correction if he is to win re-election.
What is the reaction to Mr Trump’s speech?
Here’s Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat House Speaker’s take:
Mr Trump’s Homeland Security Secretary, Kirsten Nielsen, said: “DHS frontline personnel have made it clear what they need from Congress to end the crisis and fully secure the border. It is time Congress recognizes the facts on the ground and takes this problem seriously.”
Abrams: ‘I don’t want Trump to fail’
Ms Abrams ends her rather short speech by rebuking the president once again.
“So even as I am very disappointed by the president’s approach to our problems – I still don’t want him to fail,” she says.
“But we need him to tell the truth, and to respect his duties and the extraordinary diversity that defines America.”
The initial response to Ms Abrams’s speech has been overwhelmingly positive. Former senator Rick Santorum, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, told CNN: “The president presented four policies in his whole speech, Stacey Abrams presented 40 in four minutes.”
Unsurprisingly, the Republican National Committee had a different take. “With extreme policies and an anti-free market agenda, Stacey Abrams was rejected by her home state of Georgia last November. Tonight, Abrams’ speech for a national audience replayed the same broken ideas that capsized her failed campaign,” it said in a statement.
Abrams attacks voter supression
In a reference to her own recent controversial election race, Ms Abrams hit out voter suppression.
The Democratic candidate lost a tight gubernatorial race in Georgia amid accusations of foul play by her Republican opponent Brian Kemp.
“Voter suppression is real,” she said”. “From making it harder to register and stay on the rolls to moving and closing polling places to rejecting lawful ballots, we can no longer ignore these threats to democracy”.
Abrams: ‘plants are closing, layoffs are looming’
Ms Abrams goes on to address two key Democratic priorities – the need for increased gun control legislation and curbing the spiraling cost of higher education.
She adds that Mr Trump’s tax bill “rigged the system against working people”. Contradicting Mr Trump’s claims tonight, she says: “Rather than bringing back jobs, plants are closing, layoffs are looming and wages struggle to keep pace with the actual cost of living.”
Stacey Abrams begins the Democratic response from Atlanta
Stacey Abrams is delivering the Democratic response to Mr Trump’s speech. Ms Abrams narrowly lost her bid in November to become America’s first black female governor, and party leaders are aggressively recruiting her to run for US Senate from Georgia.
Ms Abrams began by ur describing her working class upbringing, saying: “these were ofamily values: faith, service, education and responsibility.”
She went on to hit out at Mr Trump for the recent federal shutdown. “Making the livelihood of our federal workers a pawn for political games is a disgrace,” she says. “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.”
Trump ends with renewed call for unity
Mr Trump concluded his lengthy speech by circling back to its open theme of bipartisanship.
He told the congressmen: “You have come from the rocky shores of Maine and the volcanic peaks of Hawaii; from the snowy woods of Wisconsin and the red deserts of Arizona; from the green farms of Kentucky and the golden beaches of California. Together, we represent the most extraordinary Nation in all of history.
“What will we do with this moment? How will we be remembered? I ask the men and women of this Congress: Look at the opportunities before us!
“We must choose whether we are defined by our differences – or whether we dare to transcend them.
“This is the time to re-ignite the American imagination. This is our future – our fate – and our choice to make. I am asking you to choose greatness.
“No matter the trials we face, no matter the challenges to come, we must go forward together.”
Pittsburgh synagogue victims remembered
Also among Mr Trump’s guests is a survivor of a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where eleven people were killed in October. Introducing Judah Samet, Mr Trump said he “narrowly” escaped death more than seven decades after surviving the Nazi concentration camps.
As Mr Trump revealed that today is Mr Samet’s 81st birthday, the chamber broke into a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’.
“They wouldn’t do that for me,” Mr Trump added afterwards.
Trump outlines peace talks with Taliban in Afghanistan
Mr Trump goes on to double down on his push to withdraw American troops from Syria – a decision his own Defence Secretary resigned over, saying “great nations do not fight endless wars”.
Mr Trump says: “It is time to give our brave warriors in Syria a warm welcome home. I have also accelerated our negotiations to reach a political settlement in Afghanistan. My Administration is holding constructive talks with a number of Afghan groups, including the Taliban. We do not know whether we will achieve an agreement – but we do know that after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace.”
Mr Trump added his administration will not “avert our eyes” from Iran.
Trump: “America will never be a socialist country”
Mr Trump goes on to discuss a number of other foreign policy stances on Venezuela and the Middle East.
Mr Trump says: “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.”
To loud applause from the Republicans, he adds: “Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country. America was founded on liberty and independence – not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”
It was a pointed rebuke of the increasingly influential progressive wing of the Democratic party. Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and newly-elected congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are some of the party’s most well known self-described Democratic socialists.
Trump announces he will meet Kim Jong-un on February 27
Mr Trump has just announced he will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on February 27 and 28 in Vietnam.
“As part of a bold new diplomacy, we continue our historic push for peace on the Korean Peninsula.
“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. Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jong Un is a good one. And Chairman Kim and I will meet again on February 27 and 28 in Vietnam.”
Trump: ‘We will defeat Aids in America in 10 years’
Mr Trump says his next “major priority” will be lowering the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs.
“In recent years we have made remarkable progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Scientific breakthroughs have brought a once-distant dream within reach. My budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years. Together, we will defeat AIDS in America.”
Mr Trump adds that he is also pushing for funding for critical research to fight against childhood cancer.
America’s crumbling infrastructure
Both sides of the political aisle cheered as Mr Trump went on to discuss “rebuilding of America’s crumbling infrastructure”.
Tougher trade with China
Mr Trump makes only a passing reference to his ongoing trade talks with China – with both sides under pressure to reach an agreement before a March 1 deadline for higher tariffs sets in.
“I have great respect for President Xi, and we are now working on a new trade deal with China. But it must include real, structural change to end unfair trade practices, reduce our chronic trade deficit, and protect American jobs,” Mr Trump says.
He adds: ” Tonight, I am also asking you to pass the United States Reciprocal Trade Act, so that if another country places an unfair tariff on an American product, we can charge them the exact same tariff on the same product that they sell to us.”
Democrats stand as Trump highlight women’s boom
As Mr Trump began detailing how women had benefitted the most from America’s “thriving economy”, Democratic women looked uncertain whether to stand and applaud. But as Mr Trump said women have filled 58 percent of the new jobs created in the last year, they slowly rose to their feet and began to clap.
“You weren’t supposed to do that, thank you,” Mr Trump told them. He adds: “Don’t sit yet, you’ll like this” before noting “ we also have more women serving in the Congress than ever before.” Behind him, Nancy Pelosi waves to the Democrats to stand as the chamber breaks out into chants of “USA, USA”.
‘I will get border wall built’
Mr Trump turns next to border security, vowing to get his promised border wall with Mexico.
“Republicans and Democrats must join forces again to confront an urgent national crisis,” he says. “The Congress has 10 days left to pass a bill that will fund our Government, protect our homeland, and secure our southern border.”
Mr Trump says his administration has sent “a commonsense proposal” to Congress. “It includes humanitarian assistance, more law enforcement, drug detection at our ports, closing loopholes that enable child smuggling, and plans for a new physical barrier, or wall, to secure the vast areas between our ports of entry.
“In the past, most of the people in this room voted for a wall – but the proper wall never got built. I’ll get it built.”
Criminal justice reform
Mr Trump went on to discuss criminal justice reform and introduced two more of his guests in the chamber: Alice Johnson and Matthew Charles.
Mr Trump said he had been “deeply moved” by Mrs Johnson’s story. The grandmother was sentenced to life in prison in 1997 as a first-time non-violent drug offender before being pardoned by the president last June.
Mr Trump said “Alice’s story underscores the disparities and unfairness that can exist in criminal sentencing – and the need to remedy this injustice”.
He praised his administration’s work to reform “sentencing laws that have wrongly and disproportionately harmed the African-American community” – the First Step Act.
“America is a Nation that believes in redemption” Mr Trump said, as he introduced Matthew Charles – the first person to be released from prison under the First Step Act.
Trump warns against ‘partisan investigations’
Mr Trump goes on to attack “partisan investigations”, in a pointed reference to the Russia investigation currently being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller.
“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.
“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way!”
Sitting behind him, the Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi rolls her eyes.
‘USA, USA, USA’
Mr Trump declares “the state of our union is strong” to chants of USA, USA in the House of Representatives’ chamber.
Mr Trump pauses for a moment before saying “that sounds so good.”
Trump calls for ‘compromise’ as he asks Congress to ‘choose greatness’
In an unusual show of bipartisanship, Mr Trump said: “We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution – and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good”.
“Together, we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make.
“We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction. Tonight, I ask you to choose greatness.”
Mr Trump went on to trumpet his achievements over the last two years, saying “my Administration has moved with urgency and historic speed to confront problems neglected by leaders of both parties over many decades”.
“We have launched an unprecedented economic boom…We have created 5.3 million new jobs and importantly added 600,000 new manufacturing jobs”, adding “we are just getting started”.
US will ‘recognise’ two important anniversaries
Mr Trump introduces his guests in the audience as he says America will “recognise two important anniversaries that show us the majesty of America’s mission, and the power of American pride”.
Mr Trump said this June marks 75 years since the American troops joined the Allied liberation of Europe in World War Two.
“Here with us tonight are three of those heroes: Private First Class Joseph Reilly, Staff Sergeant Irving Locker, and Sergeant Herman Zeitchik.”
This year also marks 50 years since American astronauts first set foot on the moon.
“Half a century later, we are joined by one of the Apollo 11 astronauts who planted that flag: Buzz Aldrin. This year, American astronauts will go back to space on American rockets,” Mr Trump said.
“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. An amazing quality of life for all of our citizens is within our reach.”
Trump outlines his key policies
“Many of us campaigned on the same core promises: to defend American jobs and demand fair trade for American workers; to rebuild and revitalise our Nation’s infrastructure; to reduce the price of healthcare and prescription drugs; to create an immigration system that is safe, lawful, modern and secure; and to pursue a foreign policy that puts America’s interests first.”
Trump says he will lay out the agenda of the ‘American people’
“We meet tonight at a moment of unlimited potential,” Mr Trump tells the chamber. “As we begin a new Congress, I stand here ready to work with you to achieve historic breakthroughs for all Americans.
“Millions of our fellow citizens are watching us now, gathered in this great chamber, hoping that we will govern not as two parties but as one Nation.
“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 enters the chamber
Mr Trump shook hands with members of Congress as he entered the chamber.
As he stands before lawmakers, the president is surrounded by symbols of his emboldened political opposition. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was praised by Democrats for her hard-line negotiating during the shutdown, is sitting behind the president as he speaks.
Democrat presidential hopefuls spotted networking
With their party’s caucus all in one place Democrat 2020 presidential hopefuls are using the time before the president speaks as a golden networking opportunity.
Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Cory Booker have been furiously glad handing within a few feet of each other. The prize for talking to the widest array of people, including assembled military leaders, goes to Kamala Harris.
Melania Trump arrives at Congress
Last year, Melania Trump chose to wear white. This year, surrounded by a chamber full of Democratic women in white, the First Lady has chosen to wear black.
Stacey Abrams, a rising Democratic star, to deliver response
Stacey Abrams, a rising star of the Democratic , will deliver the party’s response to Mr Trump’s speech. Excerpts released ahead of time show Ms Abrams will focus on the impact of the recent federal government shutdown – the longest in US history – on workers. You can read more about Ms Abrams here.
Three things to watch during Trump’s State of the Union
The Telegraph’s US Editor, Ben Riley-Smith, has this analysis ahead of tonight’s speech:
1) Will he pledge or threaten to use executive power to build his wall?
The president is at an impasse when it comes to convincing Democrats to agree funding for his Mexico border wall. Without their approval he can’t get Congress to okay the funds and the Democrats control the House of Representatives. No Democrats, no deal. There is still time for immigration talks to produce something, with the February 15 deadline when the government shutdown begins again still more than a week away. But hopes of a deal look slim, as Mr Trump himself admitted recently. For weeks the president has been flirting with the idea of declaring a national emergency, allowing him theoretically to reassign pre-existing government cash for construction. Will he lean in to the idea tonight? Recent press reports suggest not, but it remains a possibility. If he does, expect a speedy court challenge and discomfort from moderate Republican senators.
2) Will he announce a date and time for the second Kim Jong-un summit?
We know the president is due to meet the North Korean leader for talks later this month, following their historic first meeting in Singapore last year, but we don’t have the specifics. Announcing them tonight would be an easy positive headline to make, forcing the spotlight on an area of Mr Trump’s presidency that even his critics acknowledge has seen improvement – relations with Pyongyang. Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, let the cat half out of the bag in a recent interview when he said the pair would be meeting somewhere in Asia, ending initial hopes that Kim would come to America for the summit.
3) How vocal will Democrats be in their opposition?
Dozens of Democratic congresswomen are wearing white – the colour associated with the women’s suffrage movement – in a message of support for gender equality (and a not-so-subtle rebuke of the president whose past comments on women they have fiercely condemned). The sight of Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat House Speaker, sitting directly behind Mr Trump (as is customary) and her reaction to his address will also be a key part of the political optics of tonight’s address. Expect every raised eyebrow to be analysied ad nauseam on cable news. The way Mr Trump handles the newly divided Congress – the Democrats only took control of the House last month after their November 2017 midterms success – will be fascinating to watch. As will the response of new Democrat House members. Will there be heckles? Watch this space.
Why are congresswomen wearing white?
Lois Frankel, a Florida congresswoman and chair of the Democratic Women’s Working Group, was leading calls for her party’s female politicians to wear white at the address. The colour had been chosen for its association with the women’s suffrage movement. Some of the party’s congressmen planned to were white ribbons on their lapels.
Ms Frankel said wearing white would “send a message” that “promoting the economic security of women and their families” would be the party’s focus in the House in the next two years. The move also hinted at Democrat opposition to Mr Trump’s past controversial comments on women, most notably the 2005 Access Hollywood tape where he boasted of grabbing women in intimate places which surfaced during the 2016 campaign.
The strategy also sends a very visual message to those watching at home, as Nick Allen reports:
With most of the senators and members of Congress now in the chamber there is a stark visual contrast. On the Democrat side every female representative I can see is wearing white. A few dozen just posed together for a striking photograph. On the Republican side it’s dark suits and ties for men, and mostly red attire for women.
What can we expect from the speech?
The president is due to call for agreement on bringing down prescription drug prices and improving the country’s infrastructure, even while making immigration reform – a key point of contention – a central theme.
Mr Trump will likely use some of his televised address to showcase a growing economy. Despite the shutdown, the US economy added a robust 304,000 jobs in January, marking 100 straight months of job growth. That’s the longest such period on record.
Mr Trump’s top aides have hinted at several foreign policy announcements, including the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria; threats from Iran; and the tumult in Venezuela, where the US has called on embattled President Nicolas Maduro to step down. Mr Trump may also preview plans to hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Administration officials say the White House has also been weighing several “moonshot” goals. An announcement is expected on a new initiative aimed at ending transmissions of HIV by 2030. “He will be asking for bipartisan support to make that happen,” said White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.
Trump Hotel packed with onlookers
Meanwhile, the president’s Washington hotel is buzzing ahead of the State of the Union address.
The Pennsylvania Avenue hotel’s soaring lobby is packed with onlookers in advance of the speech, which staffers told guests is to be broadcast on the TVs with the volume up.
Among those spotted in the lobby: the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and his girlfriend, former Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle.
Also there were Trump allies like Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and conservative advocate Charlie Kirk.
Some of those in attendance were spotted consuming steak frites and grilled octopus.
The scene outside Trump Tower in New York was very different – with protesters gathering several hours before the speech was due to begin.
Tight security outside US Captiol
Security was extraordinarily tight outside the Capitol building ahead of Mr Trump’s arrival. A wide ring of steel went up two hours before the speech was due to start. Secret Service agents guarded checkpoints blocks away from the Capitol and sirens wailed.
Inside the chamber the early arrivals included at last half a dozen Democratic congresswomen dressed in white, a tribute to the suffragette movement.