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Watch live: Trump to tout economic gains at State of the Union speech

Eli Stokols and Noah Bierman
Los Angeles Times
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, arrives with Vice President Mike Pence, right, before President Donald Trump arrives to delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. (Leah Millis/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump will highlight economic gains and his own case for reelection in his third State of the Union address Tuesday night to a joint session of Congress, where lawmakers have battled since September over whether he should be removed from office.

Though the nation remains bitterly divided, aides said Trump will strike a triumphant pose on the eve of his virtually certain acquittal in the Republican-controlled Senate, which is scheduled to vote Wednesday afternoon.

Trump will make his way to the rostrum on the House floor just seven weeks after the Democratic majority in the same chamber approved two articles of impeachment against him, charging him with abuse of office and obstruction of Congress.

According to advisers who previewed the speech, he will highlight economic metrics showing growth, especially for blue-collar workers and middle-class families.

He also will cite milestone accomplishments on trade talks and national security, including the CIA-led raid that left Islamic State founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi dead in Syria, and the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Iraq.

As he embraces the pageantry and spectacle of the annual televised address, Trump will aim to define himself as a Washington outsider fighting a thicket of partisan opposition to bring the changes his supporters want.

Unlike President Bill Clinton, who publicly apologized to Americans for his mistakes following his impeachment and acquittal 21 years ago, Trump is not expected to make a show of contrition.

Some Republican lawmakers who plan to vote against removing him from office on Wednesday say they are troubled by the evidence that he withheld U.S. military aid to Ukraine in an effort to pressure the government there to investigate Joe Biden, who is seeking the Democratic nomination.

The Democrats’ impeachment effort may have given Trump a slight lift, at least for now.

In recent weeks, Trump’s support has risen slightly as he has showcased policy wins on trade and foreign policy while Democrats pressed their impeachment case in the Senate. A Gallup tracking survey Tuesday showed Trump’s approval rating at 49%, a record high for his presidency.

“With our great Economy and other major successes, would be 20 points higher without the phony Witch Hunts and Hoaxes???” Trump tweeted Tuesday.

But the partisan acrimony and pessimism that intensified throughout the trial has already cast a pall over the State of the Union address, belying whatever calls for bipartisanship and national unity are programmed into the president’s teleprompter.

Republicans feel aggrieved that Trump was impeached, while many Democrats are furious that they were blocked from even calling witnesses at the Senate trial. Trump’s expected acquittal will come after the shortest presidential impeachment trial in history.

Democrats, desperate to defeat Trump in November, were demoralized after technical problems created mass confusion and lengthy delays at Monday’s first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, an ominous start to the nomination fight and the 2020 election cycle.

Several Democratic members of Congress planned to boycott Trump’s address, including Reps. Steve Cohen of Tennessee and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, who issued a blistering statement explaining her decision.

“The State of the Union is hurting because of the occupant of the White House, who consistently demonstrates contempt for the American people, contempt for Congress, and contempt for our Constitution – strong-arming a sham impeachment trial in the Senate. This presidency is not legitimate,” Pressley said.

Other Democrats attending the speech plan to protest Trump’s environmental policies by wearing pins displaying a popular graphic representation of how much the planet has warmed since 1850.

“We are wearing these climate pins to send the message that Americans will not hear from President Trump tonight: Climate change is real. We need to act, and we need to act now,” said Sen. Thomas R. Carper of Delaware.


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