Trump calls for end of resistance politics in State of Union

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing a divided Congress for the first time, President Donald Trump on Tuesday called on Washington to reject "the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution." He warned emboldened Democrats that "ridiculous partisan investigations" into his administration and businesses could hamper a surging American economy.

Trump's appeals for bipartisanship in his State of the Union address clashed with the rancorous atmosphere he has helped cultivate in the nation's capital — as well as the desire of most Democrats to block his agenda during his next two years in office. Their opposition was on vivid display as Democratic congresswomen in the audience formed a sea of white in a nod to early 20th-century suffragettes.

Trump spoke at a critical moment in his presidency, staring down a two-year stretch that will determine whether he is re-elected or leaves office in defeat. His speech sought to shore up Republican support that had eroded slightly during the recent government shutdown and previewed a fresh defense against Democrats as they ready a round of investigations into every aspect of his administration.

35 PHOTOS
Trump's second annual State of the Union Address
See Gallery
Trump's second annual State of the Union Address
President Donald Trump arrives to deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., watch, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
US President Donald Trump delivers the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 5, 2019. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
First Lady Melania Trump greets the audience, surrounded by family members, as she arrives for US President Donald Trump's State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on February 5, 2019. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump arrives to deliver the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 5, 2019. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., watch, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
White House Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp (L), Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (C) and Social Media Director Dan Scavino (R) wait for the start of U.S. President Donald Trump's second State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) arrives before U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his second State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif, arrives to listen to President Donald Trump deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Members of Congress arrive to hear President Donald Trump deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
The U.S. Capitol stands at sunset in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. President Donald Trump will speak to a House chamber full of Democrats jostling to challenge his re-election on Tuesday night, with many female lawmakers planning to dress in suffragette white and his chief antagonist Nancy Pelosi seated at the dais behind him. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 5: Donald Trump Jr., walks through Statuary Hall on his way to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's office before his father President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. He had mistakenly walked towards Speaker Pelosi's office first. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
(L-R) Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump, Lara Trump, Eric Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Tiffany Trump applaud during the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 5, 2019. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump makes a point as he delivers the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 5, 2019. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, right, and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, left, applaud U.S. President Donald Trump as he arrives to deliver a State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. Trump will speak to a House chamber full of Democrats jostling to challenge his re-election, with many female lawmakers planning to dress in suffragette white and his chief antagonist Nancy Pelosi seated at the dais behind him. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. President Donald Trump, center, delivers a State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. Trump will speak to a House chamber full of Democrats jostling to challenge his re-election, with many female lawmakers planning to dress in suffragette white and his chief antagonist Nancy Pelosi seated at the dais behind him. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. President Donald Trump delivers a State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. Trump will speak to a House chamber full of Democrats jostling to challenge his re-election, with many female lawmakers planning to dress in suffragette white and his chief antagonist Nancy Pelosi seated at the dais behind him. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images
(L-R) Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson applaud at the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 5, 2019. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) reacts as U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his second State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
First lady Melania Trump looks at cancer survivor Grace Eline as she is mentioned by U.S. President Donald Trump as he delivers his second State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Democratic female members of Congress cheer after U.S. President Donald Trump said there are more women in Congress than ever before during his second State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young
Democratic female members of Congress cheer after President Donald Trump said there are more women in Congress than ever before during his second State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan listen behind Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his second State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his second State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young
Alice Johnson, who was granted clemency by President Trump in 2018 while serving a life sentence in a nonviolent drug case, wipes away tears as she sits with White House adviser Jared Kushner (C) and his wife Ivanka Trump (R) as U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his second State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
FEBRUARY 5, 2019 - WASHINGTON, DC: President Donald Trump delivered the State of the Union address, with Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, at the Capitol in Washington, DC on February 5, 2019. Doug Mills/Pool via REUTERS
First Lady Melania Trump applauds young cancer survivor Grace Eline during U.S. President Donald Trump's State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young
FEBRUARY 5, 2019 - WASHINGTON, DC: President Donald Trump delivered the State of the Union address, with Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, at the Capitol in Washington, DC on February 5, 2019. Doug Mills/Pool via REUTERS
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump in front of Vice President Mike Pence as the president arrives to deliver his second State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump gestures during his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young
U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his second State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Democratic members of the U.S. Congress listen as U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his second State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Attendees applaud as U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his second State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation," he declared. Lawmakers in the cavernous House chamber sat largely silent.

Looming over the president's address was a fast-approaching Feb. 15 deadline to fund the government and avoid another shutdown. Democrats have refused to acquiesce to his demands for a border wall, and Republicans are increasingly unwilling to shut down the government to help him fulfill his signature campaign pledge. Nor does the GOP support the president's plan to declare a national emergency if Congress won't fund the wall.

Wary of publicly highlighting those intraparty divisions, Trump made no mention of an emergency declaration in his remarks. He did offer a lengthy defense of his call for a border wall, declaring: "I will build it." But he delivered no ultimatums about what it would take for him to sign legislation to keep the government open.

"I am asking you to defend our very dangerous southern border out of love and devotion to our fellow citizens and to our country," he said, painting a dark and foreboding picture of the risks posed to Americans by illegal immigration.

Throughout his remarks, the 72-year-old Trump harkened back to moments of American greatness, celebrating the moon landing as astronaut Buzz Aldrin looked on from the audience and heralding the liberation of Europe from the Nazis. He led the House chamber in singing happy birthday to a Holocaust survivor sitting with first lady Melania Trump.

The president ticked through a litany of issues with crossover appeal, including boosting infrastructure, lowering prescription drug costs and combating childhood cancer. But he also appealed to his political base, both with his harsh rhetoric on immigration and a call for Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the "late-term abortion of children."

Trump devoted much of his speech to foreign policy, another area where Republicans have increasingly distanced themselves from the White House. He announced details of a second meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong Un, outlining a Feb. 27-28 summit in Vietnam. The two met last summer in Singapore, though it garnered only a vaguely worded commitment by the North to denuclearize.

As he condemned political turmoil in Venezuela, Trump declared that "America will never be a socialist country" — a remark that may also have been targeted at high-profile Democrats who identify as socialists.  

The president was 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, sat behind Trump as he spoke. And several senators running for president were also in the audience, including Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Another Democratic star, Stacey Abrams, delivered the party's response to Trump. 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 U.S. Senate from Georgia.

Speaking from Atlanta, Abrams calls the shutdown a political stunt that "defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people, but our values."

Trump's address amounted to an opening argument for his re-election campaign. Polls show he has work to do, with his approval rating falling to just 34 percent after the shutdown, according to a recent survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

One bright spot for the president has been the economy, which has added jobs for 100 straight months.

"The only thing that can stop it," he said, "are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations" — an apparent swipe at the special counsel investigation into ties between Russia and Trump's 2016 campaign, as well as the upcoming congressional investigations.

The diverse Democratic caucus, which includes a bevy of women, sat silently for much of Trump's speech. But they leapt to their feet when he noted there are "more women in the workforce than ever before."

The increase is due to population growth — and not something Trump can credit to any of his policies.

The president also defended his decisions to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan over the opposition from national security officials and many Republican lawmakers.

"Great nations do not fight endless wars," he said, adding that the U.S. is working with allies to "destroy the remnants" of the Islamic State group and that he has "accelerated" efforts to reach a settlement in Afghanistan. 

IS militants have lost territory since Trump's surprise announcement in December that he was pulling U.S. forces out, but military officials warn the fighters could regroup within six months to a year of the Americans leaving. Several leading GOP lawmakers have sharply criticized his plans to withdraw from Syria, as well as from Afghanistan.

Trump's guests for the speech included Anna Marie Johnson, a woman whose life sentence for drug offenses was commuted by the president, and Joshua Trump, a sixth-grade student from Wilmington, Delaware, who has been bullied over his last name. They sat with Mrs. Trump during the address.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.