WASHINGTON — White House officials are calling President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address “Choosing Greatness,” and say he will accentuate themes of unity.
But the must-see moments are certain to revolve around how Trump interacts with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and vice versa in the president’s first speech to a joint session of Congress and a divided government.
Democrats have already sent a message in the guests they have invited to the State of the Union, including figures on the opposite side of the administration when it comes to issues like immigration reform, transgender rights, and gun control.
Follow along for live updates from the Capitol.
10:36 p.m. ET: Picture of the night. Reuters photographer Doug Mills captured what may be the standout photo of the evening, capturing Pelosi as she gives Trump some applause, just in her own way.
getting this framed
(Doug Mills/Pool via Reuters) pic.twitter.com/rzGRG3Suct
— Tim Hogan (@timjhogan) February 6, 2019
10:30 p.m. ET: One last call for “greatness.” Trump finished his speech with an effort at Ronald Reagan-style inspiration. “This is our future, our fate, and our choice to make. I am asking you to choose greatness. No matter the trials we have, no matter the challenges to come, we must go forward together.”
The speech itself was long, in part because it covered a lot of ground (with some difficult transitions), and in part because Trump talked slower than he has in past addresses.
10:10 p.m. ET: North Korean summit. Some news out of the speech — Trump says that the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will be on Feb. 27 and 28 in Vietnam.
Trump did get some derisive laughs from Democrats as he gave himself credit for maintaining peace on the Korean peninsula. Trump said that were he not elected, the U.S. would be at war with North Korea.
9:50 p.m. ET: Trump praises women elected to Congress. As Trump mentioned women getting 58% of the jobs created last year, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) stood, looked back, and motioned for some of the newer members of Congress to get up and cheer. They were some of the new “hires” — women elected last year who helped Democrats retake the majority.
Trump wasn’t expecting such irreverence. “You weren’t supposed to do that. Thank you very much.” Then, as they began to take their seats, he said, “Don’t sit yet, you’re going to like this.”
He did. He mentioned the record number of women elected to Congress.
That drew even louder cheers, as a number of women lawmakers gave each other high fives, before starting a chant of “USA. USA” that eventually spread throughout the chamber. Even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who sat expressionless at many points, got up in the celebratory moment.
9:36 p.m. ET: Some groans as Trump talks caravans. As Trump talked of the need to protect borders, Republicans roared in approval while most Democrats sat silently. The exception was when Trump talked of the threat of caravans heading toward the border, drawing a number of groans from progressive lawmakers.
Then Trump went into the dangers immigrants face themselves as they attempt to get to the border.
“Tolerance for illegal immigration is not compassionate. It is actually very cruel,” he said. “One in three women is sexually assaulted on the long journey north. Smugglers use migrant children as human pawns to exploit our laws and gain access to our country.”
But he did get some applause as he praised the contribution of legal immigrants, and then when he paid tribute to families of victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.
Trump also pledged to build a wall on the southern border. “I will get it built.” As expected, virtually no Democrat other than Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) clapped. Trump, though, did not say whether he would declare a national emergency to get the border barrier built.
9:30 p.m. ET: Trump blasts “partisan investigations.” As the president touted the booming economy, he also blasted the wave of investigations that have been a part of his presidency almost from the start.
“An economic miracle is taking place in the United States, and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace and legislation, there can not be war and investigation,” he said.
His swipe at investigations drew some hisses on the Democratic side, the first sour note of the night.
9:17 p.m. ET: Trump’s potential rivals in the room. One unusual aspect of this State of the Union is the presence of declared Democratic candidates who want his job. Right now, they are rivals for the nomination. Just before the speech began, Kamala Harris gave a hug to Elizabeth Warren, sitting just across the aisle from her. Behind Harris is Kirsten Gillibrand; and behind Warren is Cory Booker. And there are more to go: Harris sat next to Sherrod Brown, who is considering the race.
9:10 p.m. ET: Trump honors D- Day veterans, moon walk. The president got a standing ovation right off the bat for a shout out to First Lady Melania Trump, as lawmakers on both sides gave her sustained applause. (Some of the newer Democratic members, like Ocasio-Cortez, sat silently). But there was unanimity as Trump saluted the 75th anniversary of D-Day, by introducing three of its surviving veterans, and the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, by calling out astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
8:36 p.m. ET: Trump will talk of healing “old wounds.” The White House released excerpts of Trump’s speech, including his calls for common ground.
An example: “Together, we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make.”
On immigration, he plans to say, “We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens.”
“No issue better illustrates the divide between America’s WORKING CLASS and America’s POLITICAL CLASS than illegal immigration. Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards.”
8:32 p.m. ET: Stacey Abrams will talk shutdown, voting rights. Abrams, who is delivering the Democratic response immediately following the president’s speech, plans to talk about the impact of the government shutdown as well as voting rights, according to excerpts that have already been released.
“The shutdown was a stunt engineered by the President of the United States, one that defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people — but our values,” according to the text.
8:30 p.m. ET: Women in white. In the chamber, about an hour before Trump was scheduled to arrive, it was already clear what the dominant color would be — white. Democratic women are wearing the color that symbolizes women’s suffrage as a way to call attention to a host of issues including equal pay and reproductive rights. On the floor, about a dozen members cheered for a group photo, while Hillary Clinton tweeted, “what a wonderful sight this is.”
What a wonderful sight this is. https://t.co/CbnC1I16r8
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) February 6, 2019