President Donald Trump on Wednesday called on a divided Congress to refrain from "the politics of revenge" and "partisan investigations" into his presidency as he appealed for unity at a time when the US is struggling to break a stalemate over the funding for his proposed wall along the border with Mexico that could trigger another shutdown.
Trump in his second State of the Union address Trump touted economic gains during his first two years in office as well as legislative wins on issues like criminal justice reform. Trump warned that deepening partisan tensions undermine America's progress. His calls for reconciliation were met with mostly stone-faced silence from Democrats, who bitterly oppose his agenda and accuse him of hastening the decline in cross-party cooperation.
The president had a record 35-day standoff with the Democrats led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over his proposed controversial wall along the US-Mexico border, which shut down the government and postponed the address which was earlier scheduled on January 29. Trump during his address presented himself as a leader who can work across party lines. "We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good,” the president said in his address that lasted for more than 80 minutes. "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."
Trump also hit out at the "ridiculous partisan investigations" into his presidency, a reference to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian interference into the 2016 election. "We must be united at home to defeat our adversaries abroad," Trump said. Though Trump did not name the specific probes, his reference was seen pointed towards Mueller's probe to ascertain whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia ahead of the 2016 elections.
The president has long branded the special counsel's probe a "witch hunt". "If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn't work that way!” "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," Trump added. He said that illegal immigration was an urgent national crisis and he vowed to build the border wall with Mexico.
The president wants USD 5.7 billion in funding for the wall. Democrats have offered funding for other border security measures, but nothing for the wall. Trump agreed to open the government until February 15 while lawmakers negotiate a border security funding package, but has threatened to shutter the government again or declare an emergency to secure wall funding if the deal is not to his liking. "Simply put, walls work and walls save lives," Trump said Tuesday. "So let's work together, compromise and reach a deal that will truly make America safe.” "This is a smart, strategic, see-through steel barrier – not just a simple concrete wall," he said. "We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction. Tonight, I ask you to choose greatness," Trump said.
Though Trump spent much of his address to Congress urging lawmakers to overcome partisan gridlock, he also devoted some portions to foreign policy. Trump vowed to right "calamitous" trade policies and sought to expand his power to impose tariffs which he said would empower him to respond faster during trade wars. Trump told Congress that Washington's aggressive trade negotiations with China would mean an end to its alleged "theft" of US jobs and wealth. He also asked Congress to pass the United States Reciprocal Trade Act.
The United States Reciprocal Trade Act, if signed into law, could have consequences on bilateral trade with India.
The proposed legislation would expand the White House's latitude to impose tariffs if other countries' tariffs or non-tariff barrier exceed US ones. The president reiterated his decision last week to withdraw from the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia. Trump alluded to negotiating a new agreement, which would include China. The treaty withdrawal sparked fears of a new arms race. Trump also reiterated the US opposition to embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Last month, Trump recognized opposition figure Juan Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela amid the country's economic turmoil and political strife that has sparked a massive refugee crisis. Trump said that the US "will never become a socialist country". Trump celebrated the defeat of the Islamic State, adding it was time to bring US troops home from conflict zones in the Middle East. "Great nations do not fight endless wars," he said. Continuing the theme of withdrawal, Trump thanked US troops for their service in Afghanistan and said that the time had now come for a political solution to the problem. Trump described Iran as a "radical regime" and "the world's leading sponsor of state terror," adding: “They do bad, bad things.”