Trump's State of the Union Expected to Underscore Political Rancor

A man looks towards the United States through a fence in Tijuana Mexico on Nov. 17 2018. Alejandro Cegarra Bloomberg

When US President Donald Trump delivers his second State of the Union speech to Congress on Tuesday, his guests will include Joshua Trump, a sixth grader passionate about science and animals. Yet, a senior administration official told reporters to expect a "traditional" address from a president who is anything but traditional.

Trump's speech also will offer an olive branch to opponents as he looks toward the 2020 election, targeting areas he sees for potential bipartisan agreement, such as infrastructure improvements, lowering prescription drug costs and healthcare. He also plans to confer with his speechwriting and communications teams to put "finishing touches" on the nationally televised address.

He also will make another pitch for his proposed southern border wall. It's still an open question whether Trump caved to Democrats pressure on reopening the government last month because he wanted the SOTU so badly or whether the SOTU is happening because he retreated to avoid public anger.

"To every Republican, if you don't stand behind this president, we're not going to stand behind you, when it comes to the wall", he said in Greenville, South Carolina.

But there will be plenty more to keep an eye - and ear - on as Trump addresses a joint session of Congress.

Mr Trump and his top aides have also hinted that he is likely to use the address to announce a major milestone in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.

And instead of majorities in the House and Senate, the President will face a majority of Democratic lawmakers during his speech - a makeup that is sure to swing the applause-o-meter and amplify the sense of political division around the country.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said the president would use his address "to call for an end to the politics of resistance, retribution". In her letter, Pelosi cited "security concerns", as the U.S. Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security were both affected by the shutdown.

Other clips show Abrams talking about impeachment, presumably for Trump, and telling an interviewer that she tells folks she's met herself and "I'm not overly impressed".

Trump's approval had been sliding in recent weeks, reaching a low of 43 per cent in the Rasmussen poll as the shutdown wore on.

That means a "unity" speech would not be a simple declaration that the opposition party needs to come around to the president's way of thinking about everything from the economy to immigration to national security and foreign policy. It will be interesting to see if Trump mentions the trade war and how easy it is proving to win it.

But Chuck Schumer, the Democrat leader in the Senate, said: "The president will say the state of our union is strong, but the American people know the truth".

Trump's case for a border wall is likely to figure prominently and he may turn to anti-abortion rhetoric to further rally his supporters.

Today, he's putting finishing touches on a speech that is expected to explain the need for a border wall and list his achievements with the economy.

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