Sunday 17 June 2018

Trump seeks to inspire - but old divisions simmer

Donald Trump delivers his first State of the Union address
Donald Trump delivers his first State of the Union address

Alexandra Wilts

President Donald Trump took centre stage to deliver his first State of the Union address - an almost 90-­minute speech that swerved between bipartisan rhetoric and expressions of his America First agenda.

The speech came as Mr Trump's White House continues to be beleaguered by investigations into his campaign's alleged ties to Russia. Mr Trump, along with several Republican members of Congress, have cast doubt on the credibility of the FBI's probe into the matter.

Seemingly trying to put those issues aside, he declared: "I call on Congress to empower every cabinet secretary with the authority to reward good workers - and to remove federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people."

Mr Trump is said to be in support of releasing a controversial memo that reportedly alleges misconduct by senior Justice Department and FBI officials investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. The president has insisted there was no collusion.

The long address touched on a range of topics, including the economy, immigration, infrastructure and trade.

As Mr Trump started his address, the White House announced he had signed an executive order to reverse Barack Obama's attempt to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.

Mr Trump sought to inspire a deeply divided Congress and nation. "I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people," Mr Trump said to roaring applause from many Republicans while several Democrats sat stone-faced in their seats.

His address came less than two weeks after disagreements over immigration policy led to a government shutdown, and about a week before disputes regarding government spending could result in another closure.

Melania Trump. Photo: Jonathan Ernst
Melania Trump. Photo: Jonathan Ernst

Mr Trump began his address by highlighting American heroism in horrific attacks and natural disasters over the past year.

He pointed out House majority whip Steve Scalise, calling him the "legend from Louisiana" after he survived a life-threatening shooting at a congressional baseball practice last June. "In the aftermath of that terrible shooting, we came together not as Republicans or Democrats, but as representatives of the people," Mr Trump said. "But it is not enough to come together only in times of tragedy."

The president, who is said to have disparaged immigrants in conversations with lawmakers and his advisers, later said he was "extending an open hand to work with members of both parties, Democrats and Republicans, to protect our citizens, of every background, colour, religion and creed".

But more divisive remarks were never far behind.

Mr Trump said he was willing to work with Democrats to legalise immigrants brought to the US illegally as children - so-called Dreamers - but suggested that US citizens could not be left behind.

"My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans - to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American Dream," Mr Trump said before referencing immigration policy. "Because Americans are dreamers too."

Mr Trump's immigration plan drew immediate condemnation from Democrats in the chamber. Several began to jeer when he said he would "protect the nuclear family by ending chain migration". (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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