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State of the Union 2020: Trump to Ask Nation for Second Term Amid Impeachment Trial

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President Donald Trump at CPAC | State of the Union 2020: Trump to Ask Nation for Second Term Amid Impeachment Trial | Featured
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By Ed Pilkington

Donald Trump will deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday night caught in the final phases of his impeachment trial and in a year when he is asking a historically-divided nation to return him for a second term in the White House.

At 9pm on Tuesday, a day before the Senate is expected to acquit him of charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, Trump will lay out to the American people his interpretation of this unique moment.

He will speak feet away from the Democratic leaders who inflicted on him the ignominy of being the third president in US history to be impeached, with his nemesis Nancy Pelosi sitting at his back.

The theme of the speech, White House aides have indicated, will be the “Great American Comeback”. The phrase contains within it the idea of a US president bouncing back from what he has derided as the “witch-hunt” of impeachment, never mind that his acquittal will almost certainly be handed to him on Wednesday by Senate Republicans who failed even to call witnesses at his trial.

The speech will be used by Trump to brag about “winning” on a number of fronts, domestic and foreign. As he told Sean Hannity of Fox News in a Super Bowl interview on Sunday: “We’re going to talk about the achievements we’ve made. So many different things.”

This is not the first time a president has delivered a State of the Union speech in the midst of impeachment. Bill Clinton was still three weeks away from acquittal for lying in the Monica Lewinsky scandal when he gave his State of the Union in 1999.

In his address, Clinton notably avoided uttering the word “impeachment”. Observers will be listening closely to see if Trump follows suit, or whether he will allow his desire for revenge against “Shifty Schiff” – his nickname for Adam Schiff, the Democratic Congressman who led the impeachment case against him – to run rampant.

Trump’s advisers and senior Republicans have been pleading with him to take the high ground and focus on positives rather than unloading on his Democratic rivals in the joint chamber of Congress before him. As the White House counselor, Kellyanne Conway, put it: “Success is the best revenge”.

Of those Trump rivals, three US senators who are competing to be his opponent in November are likely to be in the chamber – Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. No matter how on-message Trump manages to remain, he is unlikely to resist the temptation to gloat about the parlous shambles of the Iowa caucus, the opening shot in the Democratic party’s race to nominate its candidate, which collapsed amid technical counting problems on Monday night.

Among the positives that Trump is likely to highlight is the economy with unemployment standing at 3.5% – the lowest in more than 50 years. He is also likely to beat the drum over his record of appointing rightwing judges, and attack as “socialist” proposals from leading Democratic presidential candidates to introduce universal healthcare under Medicare for All.

Trump will be buoyed by the latest Gallup poll that puts his approval rating at its highest yet – 49%. Against that, there is the 51% who expressed disapproval, the economic dark clouds of the coronavirus crisis, widespread censure of his handling of the Middle East, and the disdain he showed for the constitutional limits of his power in seeking to coerce Ukraine to dish dirt on a political rival that led to impeachment.

There is also the matter of the wall on the Mexican border, Trump’s personal obsession that dominated his State of the Union last year. This year he might be less inclined to focus on the subject, given its halting progress and the fact that a section of it blew over last month in high winds.

Copyright © 2020 theguardian.com. All rights reserved.

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