U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday evening is to make his annual State of the Union speech, accepting an invitation from the House of Representatives that recently impeached him.
Senators are scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to convict Trump and remove him from office. It is virtually certain they will acquit him on the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice, because his Republican Party holds a majority in the Senate, where a two-thirds vote would be needed for conviction and removal.
“It’s unprecedented in our nation’s history to have a State of the Union address from an impeached president running for re-election,” noted University of Akron political science professor David Cohen. “These events read like political thriller fiction, except they’re actually happening.”
The theme of Trump’s third State of the Union speech will be “The Great American Comeback.”
“I think he's going to give a positive, forward-looking vision,” said a senior administration official, adding that Trump “will encourage Congress to work with him to continue to build an inclusive economy where the least well-off are making some of the fastest gains and where people of every background are finding new opportunities.”
Trump, however, on Sunday evening seemed to dampen expectations he will get that cooperation in an election year from the House, which is controlled by the Democratic Party and voted for his impeachment in December.
“I’m not sure that they can do it, to be honest. I think they just want to win and it doesn’t matter how they win,” Trump told the Fox network in a Super Bowl Sunday interview.
This year’s State of the Union speech in the House chamber, attended by Democratic and Republican lawmakers from both legislative chambers, as well as guests such as Cabinet secretaries and Supreme Court justices, is likely to be watched by about 50 million people — about half the estimated audience of Sunday evening’s professional American football championship game.
Cohen said that despite the prediction from the White House, his “expectations for a positive message are low for a president that is famously undisciplined and can’t resist going off script. And that’s assuming that the White House speechwriting team constructs a positive message besides bragging about the stock market.”
Trump repeatedly emphasizes in remarks to reporters and at political rallies the record-high levels for major U.S. stock market indexes, for which he credits his administration’s economic policies.
Cohen recalled that presidential senior adviser Stephen Miller “draped Trump’s inaugural address in the language of ‘American carnage,’ ” thus darker rhetoric could again be infused in the president’s Tuesday speech.
It is not known whether Trump will directly address his impeachment.
“It’s never safe to assume anything, so I'm not previewing what the president is going to say about that today,” responded a senior administration official when asked about that. “Clearly there's a lot going on, but I'm not going to preview — I'm not going to get ahead of what the president will say.”
Trump’s address, however, is to focus on domestic issues and he is not expected to make any remarks that will be “Earth-shattering or new with respect to foreign policy,” according to a senior administration official.
As is usual for such a high-profile address, “basically the whole government works on this speech because you engage in a process that touches upon every department,” said a senior administration official, noting that several officials had been tasked with crafting the address but “it begins and ends with the president.”
One of Trump’s two official guests for his address, according to the White House, will be a former U.S. Army veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Tony Rankins of Cincinnati, who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and became addicted to drugs, which led to several prison sentences and living out of his car.
“A company called Our Investments helped train Tony in carpentry, painting, brick work and other construction trades,” noted a senior U.S. official. ”And his new job has helped him overcome drug addiction and reunite with his family.”
Trump’s second guest will be U.S. Border Patrol Deputy Chief Raul Ortiz, “who has helped protect America's homeland security for nearly three decades,” according to the White House.