The President will use his remarks to argue for bipartisan cooperation while trumpeting the roaring stock market and low unemployment, aides have said. He told advisers he wanted to strike a unifying tone after a year of stoking divisions on race, politics and gender.
“Tonight, I am extending an open hand to work with members of both parties, Democrats and Republicans, to protect our citizens, of every background, color and creed,” Trump will say during his address, according to excerpts released by the White House.
Whether one hourlong address can achieve that goal remains to be seen. Trump remains deeply divisive, and Washington has fractured during his first year in office as controversies mount. Investigations into Russian election meddling are heating up as Trump prepares for a potential interview with special counsel Robert Mueller.
In his remarks, Trump plans to herald the large package of tax cuts he signed into law last year. He’ll proclaim that a regulatory rollback has allowed industries to thrive. And he’ll insist that his administration has “sought to restore the bonds of trust between our citizens and their government.”
“This is our New American Moment. There has never been a better time to start living the American dream,” Trump will say, according to the excerpts. “Americans love their country. And they deserve a government that shows them the same love and loyalty in return.”
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 Twitter.
If the State of the Union has assumed a reduced importance, however, there were no signs the White House was taking 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.
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.
Among the items Trump plans to raise in his remarks: a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan, paid for by federal, state and private dollars; the sweeping tax cuts he signed into law late last year; and foreign policy matters, including “eye-opening” remarks on North Korea, according to a person familiar with the remarks.
Trump also plans to advocate for a possible immigration agreement that would allow some undocumented immigrations to remain in the country.
“Struggling communities, especially immigrant communities, will also be helped by immigration policies that focus on the best interests of American workers and American families,” he will say, according to the excerpts.
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.
Trump told a gathering of TV news anchors Tuesday ahead of his address that he would like to see the country “united” and hopes to help rally the country around a sense of national unity.
The President said he would consider unifying the country a great achievement and that he would like to achieve national unity without a “major event,” such as a national tragedy or major terrorist attack.
While Trump acknowledged that the country is currently very divided, he also said he believes the country was more divided during the Bill Clinton impeachment, citing a conversation he had with a Democratic lawmaker.
The speech is not likely to touch on the Russia matter, people familiar with it said, opting instead to focus on policy. Trump hopes a serious-minded message can help improve his standing in the polls.
The President’s approval rating stood at 40% in CNN’s last survey, his highest mark since last September, but still the lowest for any elected president at the one-year mark since modern public opinion polling began.
Democrats selected Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts, a grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, to deliver the traditional response to the President’s speech. A number of other responses are also planned, including by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent Vermont senator who ran for President in 2016. A number of Democrats have planned to boycott the speech.
The White House announced on Monday that 15 guests would sit above the House floor in the first lady’s box, a tradition that past presidents have used to illustrate their successes. This year’s guests include a firefighter who helped battle blazes in California and the parents of children killed by the MS-13 gang.
The first lady herself also plans to attend 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.