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State of the Union address: Trump to pitch bipartisanship amid rancor with Democrats

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 2/5/2019 John Wagner, Felicia Sonmez, Mike DeBonis

President Donald Trump claps during the State of the Union address on January 30, 2018. © Win McNamee/Getty Images President Donald Trump claps during the State of the Union address on January 30, 2018. President Trump is expected to call for more bipartisan cooperation in his State of the Union address Tuesday night as he stands before a Congress bitterly divided over his demand for border-wall funding that resulted in a 35-day partial government shutdown.

The nationally televised 9 p.m. address in the House chamber — which was delayed a week after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) withdrew an initial invitation during the shutdown — will offer Trump a chance to showcase his immigration proposals. But aides say he will also highlight areas where he hopes to forge consensus, including around infrastructure projects and cutting the cost of prescription drugs.

Stacey Abrams, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Georgia last year, is set to give her party’s response.

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Posturing over Trump’s speech — and what it means for him at this point in his presidency — began long before his scheduled trip to Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

5:10 p.m.: Schumer invites air traffic controller to speech

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has invited Ronan Byrne, a Long Island air traffic controller who worked without pay for 35 days during the government shutdown, to be his guest for tonight’s speech.

In a statement, Schumer called Byrne “a prime example of a dedicated and professional federal worker — doing a vital job for the American public — who was put through the ringer for no good reason.”

“This shutdown should never have happened in the first place, and it sure absolutely [should] not happen again,” he said.

4:10 p.m.: Democratic women wear white in nod to suffragists

Dozens of Democratic women — and a few men, too — gathered in the Capitol Visitors Center for a group portrait Tuesday afternoon. The participants dressed in white, the traditional color of suffragists. They were joined by Pelosi, who will sit on the House rostrum Tuesday night for the first time in eight years.

For more on the historical significance of the color choice, read more from Marisa Iati.

3:45 p.m.: Trump takes aim at Northam over abortion comments

Trump criticized Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), for supporting “very late abortion” during a meeting with surrogates Monday, but did not attack the governor for a racist photo on his yearbook page or wearing “blackface” or black shoe polish on his face.

On the day of his State of the Union address, Trump met with about 15 surrogates. They included former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, former White House communications director Jason Miller, former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting director Thomas Homan, and pro-Trump commentators Jeffrey Lord and Paris Dennard. Vice President Pence and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney also attended the meeting.

The president and his aides suggested he was unlikely to declare a national emergency and instead would focus his speech on issues that bring “unity,” according to one attendee. Trump said he wanted to highlight his foreign policy record — with aides saying he planned to talk about his efforts to get member countries to pay more for NATO.

Trump also said he was going to talk about a large infrastructure package, cutting regulations, and moves to lower the prices of prescription drugs, an attendee said.

One White House aide said Trump sees the State of the Union address as providing some of his best media coverage of the year — and “does not want to blow that up” with any comments that would create a controversy.

Trump only stayed in the meeting for a few minutes and told his surrogates he needed to practice his speech more.

2:15 p.m.: Guests to include people affected by Trump immigration policies

Trump’s audience inside the House chamber on Tuesday night will include at least 15 people directly affected by his administration’s immigration policies and attending as guests of members of Congress, according to an advocacy group.

They include seven past and present participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields from deportation young immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children or lack permanent legal status.

Trump sought to eliminate the program earlier in his administration and has since offered a short-term extension as part of stalled negotiations with congressional Democrats over a border-security package that would include funding for his border wall.

Several others are “survivors” of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy that led to separations of children and their parents at the southern border last year, according the group, FWD.us, that compiled the list.

They include a mother-daughter pair, Albertina Contreras Teletor, and Yakelin Garcia Contreras, who is celebrating her 12th birthday on Tuesday. Yakelin was separated from her mother for roughly two months in the summer, according to the group.

Others invited to watch Trump’s speech include refugees and people who have been protected by a program that allowed immigrants who fled violence in Haiti, Sudan, Nicaragua and El Salvador to temporarily work in the United States.

1:30 p.m.: Pelosi to share the spotlight Tuesday night

She won’t be delivering a speech, but Pelosi will be sharing the spotlight Tuesday night as President Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a newly divided Congress that is likely to be skeptical of his agenda.

While Trump will have the microphone, Pelosi and her fellow House Democrats are using the occasion to send messages of their own — largely through the guests they have invited to the House chamber for the speech.

Read more from The Post’s Mike DeBonis here.

1:05 p.m.: Pelosi using Trump’s speech to raise money

In an email solicitation hours before she was scheduled to welcome Trump to the House chamber, Pelosi said she was seeking to raise $200,000 “to make his second State of the Union completely backfire.”

The email sought donations for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which aims to elect Democrats to the House.

“In the year since Trump last delivered a State of the Union Address we’ve seen his vision for the country firsthand,” the solicitation said. “He’s threatened the integrity of the Russia investigation, separated families at our border, doubled down on his ineffective and expensive border wall, and attacked everyone who dares to disagree with him.”

“And I’ll be honest, that’s just the very tip of the iceberg,” Pelosi continued. “Which is why I have an ambitious plan — $200,000 in the door before his big speech — to make his second State of the Union Address completely backfire.”

12:30 p.m.: Sen. Kennedy invites custodian from Senate office building

Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) announced that his guest for the address will be Justina Pettway, a custodian in the Russell Senate Office Building.

“Justina is such a joy to see in the hallways around Russell,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Her smile can light up a room and light up your day. She also works very hard and is good at her job.”

This is the second consecutive year that Kennedy has invited someone who participates in the Goodwill of Greater Washington’s AbilityOne program, which helps people with disabilities find employment.

12:20 p.m.: Steve King’s guest is Diamond of Diamond & Silk

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), whose comments on race have generated controversy, announced that his guest for the address will be Diamond, half of the duo Diamond & Silk.

The two African American women, whose real names are Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, are frequent guests on the Fox News Channel, offering conservative commentary supportive of Trump.

King said that since he can bring only one guest, there was a coin toss. Diamond prevailed over Silk.

12:15 p.m.: Pelosi’s guests include active duty transgender Army officers

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced her guests for the address. They include two active duty transgender Army officers — an implicit critique of Trump’s decision to implement a ban on transgender service members.

Captain Jennifer Peace and Major Ian Brown represent activist groups OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and SPARTA, which, in part, work in support of trans people.

Also attending will be several guests highlighting the fight against gun violence, including Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed last year in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.; Charlie Mirsky, a Parkland student who has organized the March for Our Lives campaign; and Mattie Scott, an activist with the Brady Campaign in San Francisco, which Pelosi represents.

Leana Wen, who was named Planned Parenthood president last year, will also attend as Pelosi’s guest amid a new uproar from conservatives over Democratic state lawmakers’ attempts to expand abortion rights in New York and Virginia.

Highlighting the Democratic stance on immigration policy, Pelosi has invited Angelica Salas, the executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, and José Andrés, a Washington-based chef who has been an outspoken supporter of immigrant rights and has led relief efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017. Another celebrity chef with roots in the Bay Area, Tyler Florence, is also attending as Pelosi’s guest.

Several political allies of the speaker will also be in attendance, including Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, the chief executive and co-founder of MomsRising, an activist network focused on women’s issues.

Also attending are two top Democratic officials from New Jersey — Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver and State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg — who gathered signatures for a letter by female leaders in that state supporting Pelosi’s election as speaker. Their support helped convince several newly elected House members from New Jersey at a time when Pelosi’s return to the speakership was not assured.

The leaders of several major labor unions — the National Education Association, the United Steelworkers, the Service Employees International Union, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, and the AFL-CIO — are also attending, as are Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, and daughter Alexandra Pelosi.

12 p.m.: Trump lunching with broadcast and cable news anchors

Trump plans to keep with tradition and have an off-the-record lunch at the White House on Tuesday with broadcast and cable television news anchors.

Such lunches have long been held during the afternoon of a president’s State of the Union address. Despite his hostility toward the media — whom he has called “the enemy of the people” — Trump is moving forward with the lunch, according to people who have been invited.

Pelosi and Schumer plan to meet with the same anchors later Tuesday afternoon at the Capitol. Unlike the White House lunch, their gathering will be on the record, according to Democratic aides.

11:50 a.m.: Most Senate Republicans have low expectations for Trump’s address

The Post’s Robert Costa reports from Cups, the Senate coffee shop, that most Senate Republicans have low expectations for Tuesday night’s address.

“Privately, several say [Trump is] boxed in by his own decisions and an unwavering Pelosi,” Costa tweeted. “He may want to go big, one says, but he hasn’t shown an ability to do so.”

11:45 a.m.: Glenn Beck to attend Trump’s address

The conservative political commentator Glenn Beck will attend the State of the Union address Tuesday as the guest of Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.).

Massie said in a text message that he invited Beck “because of his independence and to show my appreciation for his commitment to get the facts out” about the students at Covington Catholic High School in Massie’s district who found themselves at the center of a media firestorm last month after a heated episode at the Lincoln Memorial.

Beck defended the students repeatedly on his program, which airs online, via radio syndication and on TheBlaze TV network, saying their encounter with a Native American activist and a group of Black Israelites had been wildly mischaracterized by the national media and urging his listeners and viewers to support them.

“Glenn said he’s been invited several times before and has always declined, so I’m honored that he accepted my invite,” Massie added. “Should be fun.”

Beck tweeted Monday night from a room at President Trump’s D.C. hotel, where he noted Massie’s invitation and praised the accommodations: “I’ve stayed at many Trump hotels, this is his best IMHO.”

11:30 a.m.: Schumer fires back at Trump, calls promises of unity empty

Schumer fired back at Trump about an hour after the president criticized him for panning a speech that had yet to be delivered.

“Thanks for watching my speech,” Schumer wrote, “but you must have missed this line: ‘Even more empty than his policy promises are President Trump’s calls each year for unity.’ ”

Schumer made a speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday in which he said “the state of our union is in need of drastic repair.”

That prompted a tweet from Trump noting his remarks and needling Schumer for Democratic losses in last year’s Senate elections.

11 a.m.: McConnell says the union is ‘strong and growing stronger’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took to the Senate floor in advance of Trump’s speech and said the nation has made real progress under Trump despite “Beltway melodrama.”

“From historic tax reform and regulatory reform, to huge progress in the fight against ISIS, to landmark progress in the nationwide fight against opioid addiction, the story of the last two years has been one of immense policy progress for our nation,” McConnell said, using a different term for the Islamic State. “The American people are less interested in Beltway melodrama and more interested in that classic question — ‘Am I better off than I was two years ago?’ And on this front — thanks to a few key Republican victories and a number of major bipartisan accomplishments, the state of our union is strong and growing stronger.”

10:50 a.m.: Harris to deliver response to Trump’s speech — before he speaks

Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), who is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, announced that she would deliver remarks before Trump speaks.

“In her remarks, Senator Harris will push back on the President’s expected message of division, highlight the importance of speaking truth, and outline her vision for a country that works for all its people,” an advisory said.

Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is delivering the official Democratic response, which will be nationally televised.

Harris is scheduled to speak on Facebook Live at 7:45 p.m.

In addition, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) plans to deliver a live-streamed response to Trump on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter after the president’s remarks.

10:30 a.m.: Trump pushes back against Schumer criticism

Hours before a speech in which he will call for more bipartisanship, Trump needled Schumer for losing Democratic seats in last year’s elections.

“I see Schumer is already criticizing my State of the Union speech, even though he hasn’t seen it yet,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “He’s just upset that he didn’t win the Senate, after spending a fortune, like he thought he would. Too bad we weren’t given more credit for the Senate win by the media!”

Trump’s tweet came minutes after Schumer went on the Senate floor to speak in advance of Trump’s address.

“Tomorrow, the president will say — predictably — that the state of our union is strong,” Schumer said. “But the truth is, the state of the Trump economy is failing America’s middle class, the state of the Trump health-care system is failing American families, and the state of the Trump administration is embroiled in chaos and incompetence. The state of the president’s foreign policy is incoherent, inconsistent, cynical in the extreme, and has undermined American power and our national interest. So in sum, the state of our union is in need of drastic repair.”

Republicans picked up two Senate seats in the midterm elections and now have a 53-to-47 advantage over the Democratic caucus.

10:10 a.m.: Sen. Christopher A. Coons invites Joshua Trump to his office

Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) extended an invitation via Twitter to Joshua Trump, who is attending the State of the Union at the invitation of first lady Melania Trump, to visit his office while at the Capitol.

Joshua Trump is a sixth-grade student from Wilmington, Del., who says he’s been bullied because of his last name. The 11-year-old is not related to the president.

“I’m glad @FLOTUS has invited Joshua Trump, a 6th Grader from Wilmington, to the State of the Union,” Coons wrote. “Joshua has been bullied because of his last name, which is simply unacceptable. Joshua — I hope you have a great time in the Capitol — please visit my office if you have a chance!”

10 a.m.: Senate committee considers replacement for Kavanaugh

As Trump prepared to visit the House chamber, a Senate committee was set Tuesday morning to hold a hearing on his pick to replace Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh on the federal appeals court in Washington.

Trump has installed a historic number of federal circuit court judges at this point in his tenure — an achievement likely to be cited during his State of the Union address.

There were signs of lingering bitterness Tuesday morning over Kavanaugh’s contentious confirmation battle even before the hearing for nominee Neomi Rao began. More than a dozen people, mostly young women, lined up outside the committee room wearing black T-shirts with the message #RejectRao.

Rao faces opposition from civil rights groups critical of her record of rolling back government regulations as the White House regulatory czar. Opponents also point to provocative columns she wrote as an undergraduate at Yale in the 1990s on subjects including date rape and affirmative action.

9:30 a.m.: Ocasio-Cortez suggests Trump’s speech isn’t worth watching

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who’s become a favorite among liberals since her debut on Capitol Hill last month, seemed to suggest in a morning tweet that Trump’s speech isn’t worth watching.

Ocasio-Cortez posted a CNN news report with this headline: “State of the Union 2019: What to watch.”

Her response: “None of it.”

In an earlier tweet, Ocasio-Cortez told her nearly 2.8 million followers to be sure to tune in for the Democratic response from Stacey Abrams if they are skipping the president’s speech.

9:15 a.m.: Sanders won’t say whether Trump will announce summit date

During a television interview, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders declined to say whether Trump would announce a date during his address for a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump has hinted that he might.

Last month, the White House announced tentative plans for a late February summit with Kim after Trump met in the Oval Office with Kim Yong Chol, a former spy chief who has been Pyongyang’s lead negotiator.

The two sides are seeking to jump-start nuclear talks that have bogged down since their historic first meeting last year in Singapore.

Speculation for the next meeting site has focused on Danang, Vietnam.

9:10 a.m.: Trump warns of people ‘flooding our Southern Border’

As he prepared to deliver his State of the Union address, Trump went on Twitter for the first time Tuesday to warn of migrants making their way to the U.S. border.

“Tremendous numbers of people are coming up through Mexico in the hopes of flooding our Southern Border,” Trump wrote. “We have sent additional military. We will build a Human Wall if necessary. If we had a real Wall, this would be a nonevent!”

Trump is expected to use his address to make his case for $5.7 billion in border wall funding that led to a protracted partial government shutdown.

8:45 a.m.: Sarah Sanders: Trump can work with Democrats on infrastructure

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders cited infrastructure as an issue on which Trump wants to work with Democrats in the wake of his State of the Union address.

“There are a number of policies that Democrats and Republicans know need to be addressed,” Sanders said during an appearance on CNN. “I think infrastructure is one of the easiest ones for us to look at. Everybody in this country knows that we have crumbling bridges and roads that need to be fixed. We also need to have a technology infrastructure that needs to get better. … We’re hopeful that we can come together and can get something done.”

Trump, a Republican who campaigned on addressing the nation’s aging infrastructure, unveiled a long-awaited plan last February that received a cool reception from members of both parties, who said the president had not presented a viable way to pay for it.

The plan focused on $1.5 trillion in new spending on infrastructure over the coming decade but relied heavily on states, localities and the private sector to cover the costs of new roads, bridges, waterways and other public works projects.

A plan released earlier by Senate Democrats would have relied far more heavily on direct federal government spending than Trump’s plan, which included $200 billion in federal spending with the aim of enticing several times that amount from other levels of government.

During a letter to Democratic colleagues on Monday night, Pelosi also cited infrastructure as a possible issue on which her party could work with Trump.

“Tomorrow, we look forward to welcoming President Trump as a guest in our House Chamber and hearing his report on the State of the Union,” she wrote. “I am hopeful that tomorrow, we will hear a commitment from the President on issues that have bipartisan support in the Congress and the Country, such as lowering the price of prescription drugs and rebuilding America’s infrastructure.”

8:10 a.m.: Eric Trump mocks Pelosi for advocating drones at border

As Trump prepared to call for more bipartisanship, his son, Eric Trump, mocked Pelosi during a television interview for advocating for drones and other technological improvements at the border.

“I’m a common-sense guy, right?” Eric Trump said during an appearance on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends. “And then you hear Nancy Pelosi saying, ‘Let’s get drones. We’ll fly beautiful drones … sucking jet fuel all day long.’ How does that stop this problem? It’s actually insanity, guys. My father’s a common-sense guy. You know what works? Walls work.”

Pelosi has resisted the president’s demand for $5.7 billion in funding for a border wall, calling the proposed project “immoral.”

7:50 a.m.: Kellyanne Conway says Trump has no need to ad-lib

Asked during a television interview Tuesday whether Trump plans to ad-lib any of his speech, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway played down the prospect.

“The address itself has a heavy hand from the president in it,” Conway said during an appearance on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends,” adding that Trump has no reason to ad-lib.

Conway said Trump might pause while reading from his prepared text to emphasize certain points.

She also emphasized that Trump will call for unity in the speech and said it will be interesting to see how Democrats, including Pelosi, react.

“Anybody who’s sitting there with their arms folded, harrumphing, looking like they’ve sucked on 12 lemons — that’s on them not him, because he’s calling on unity, he’s calling for working together,” Conway said. “They’re going to need to decide if they’re serious about that as well.”

Maria Sacchetti, Josh Dawsey and Ann E. Marimow contributed to this story.

John.Wagner@washpost.com

Felicia.Sonmez@washpost.com

Mike. DeBonis@washpost.com

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