State of the Union 2020: Trump addresses nation just before expected acquittal by Senate

Author: CBS NEWS
Published: Updated:
President Donald Trump as he gives the state of the union address. (CBS News photo)
FILE: President Donald Trump as he gives the state of the union address. (CBS News photo)

In his 2020 State of the Union address, President Trump reiterated many of his typical talking points: He touted a strong economy and low unemployment, and railed against sanctuary cities and Medicare for All. But he also delivered emotional surprises, awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rush Limbaugh and reuniting an American soldier with his family.

“The years of economic decay are over,” Mr. Trump said at the beginning of his speech.”The economy is the best it’s ever been.”

More than halfway through the address, Mr. Trump began taking shots at some of the Democrats in the room. He promised that “we will never let socialism destroy American health care,” and blasted illegal immigration and sanctuary cities.

Mr. Trump also had surprises for some of his guests, including a fourth grader who was granted an opportunity scholarship and a wife who was reunited with her husband, an American soldier returning from deployment.

Before giving his address, Mr. Trump appeared to snub Nancy Pelosi’s handshake. When she introduced Mr. Trump, Pelosi left out the customary phrase, “I have the high privilege and distinct honor of” introducing the president of the United States, and simply introduced him as “the president of the United States.”

After Mr. Trump finished speaking, Pelosi ripped up his speech.

Pelosi appears to rip up Trump’s State of the Union address

As members of Congress applauded Mr. Trump at the conclusion of his speech, Pelosi, standing behind him, appeared to tear up the speech presented to her by the president. Pelosi, standing with pursed lips, ripped several pieces of paper as Mr. Trump received applause from Republicans in Congress.

Earlier, when she was introducing him, Pelosi did not say it was her “high privilege and distinct honor” to introduce the president, as is tradition. Mr. Trump appeared to ignore Pelosi when she offered her hand to him before he began speaking.

Trump concludes his speech: “This nation is our canvas, and this country is our masterpiece”

The president concluded his speech by listing some of the greatest Americans in U.S. history: Harriet Tubman, the Wright brothers, Amelia Earhart, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

“The American nation was carved out of the vast frontier by the toughest, strongest, fiercest, and most determined men and women ever to walk the face of the Earth,” the president said. “… This Nation is our canvas, and this country is our masterpiece. We look at tomorrow and see unlimited frontiers just waiting to be explored. Our brightest discoveries are not yet known. Our most thrilling stories are not yet told. Our grandest journeys are not yet made. The American age, the American epic, the American adventure, has only just begun.”

Father of Parkland victim ejected after yelling at the president
Fred Guttenberg, the father of Parkland high school shooting victim Jamie Guttenberg, was swiftly ejected from the speaker’s box after he screamed at the president, following Mr. Trump’s vow to protect the 2nd Amendment. It was unclear what Gutenberg said.

The president said he’ll always protect the Second Amendment, but said nothing about preventing school or other mass shootings.

Trump touts strikes against al-Baghdadi and Soleimani

Mr. Trump touted the strikes that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, and Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani. The strike that killed Soleimani was particularly controversial and resulted in a retaliatory strike from Iran on U.S. military bases in Iraq.

“As the world’s top terrorist, Soleimani orchestrated the deaths of countless men, women, and children. He directed the December assault on United States Forces in Iraq, and was actively planning new attacks. That is why, last month, at my direction, the United States Military executed a flawless precision strike that killed Soleimani and terminated his evil reign of terror forever,” Mr. Trump said. “Our message to the terrorists is clear: You will never escape American justice. If you attack our citizens, you forfeit your life!”

Seated in the first lady’s box are Kelli and Gage Hake. Kelli Hake’s husband, Christopher Hake, was killed in Iraq in 2008 when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb that the Defense Department has said was provided to Iraqi militias by Soleimani.

In response to the strike that killed Soleimani, the House passed measures to prevent Mr. Trump from engaging in hostilities with Iran.

Pelosi and Democrats stand to applaud call for infrastructure funding

In a rare moment of unity, Pelosi and other House Democrats stood to applaud the president’s call to fund the nation’s infrastructure, something he’s said he’d tackle for years. The president called on Congress to pass a highway bill proposed by Republican Senator John Barrasso.

Pelosi has rarely stood in approval of the president’s remarks.

Trump blasts illegal immigration and sanctuary cities

The president also brought up one of the signature issues that helped get him elected: Illegal immigration.

Using vivid language, the president described crimes committed by immigrants who were in the U.S. illegally and blasted so-called sanctuary cities that decline to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

“Tragically, there are many cities in America where radical politicians have chosen to provide sanctuary for these criminal illegal aliens. In sanctuary cities, local officials order police to release dangerous criminal aliens to prey upon the public, instead of handing them over to ICE to be safely removed.”

The president also highlighted the most prominent symbol of his campaign, the wall he has long sought, saying his administration has completed more than 100 miles. Almost all of these miles of wall have been built in areas where some barrier already existed.

White House spokesman says word “impeachment” not in Trump’s speech

Principal deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told reporters ahead of Mr. Trump’s third State of the Union that the president’s address currently does not mention impeachment.

“I’ve seen the speech tonight, and I’ve not seen the word impeachment,” Gidley said.

But he cautioned that could change.

“As he likes to say, we’ll see what happens,” Gidley said of the president.

Trump calls for legislation banning late-term abortion

Mr. Trump called for legislation to ban late-term abortion, a measure sought by his conservative base.

“Whether we are Republican, Democrat, or Independent, surely we must all agree that every human life is a sacred gift from God!” Mr. Trump said.

He also praised recent legislation that provides paid family leave for all federal workers, a bipartisan provision included in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act.

Trump calls for bipartisan legislation to lower prescription drug prices

In a rare call for bipartisanship, Mr. Trump urged members of Congress to work on legislation to lower prescription drug prices.

“Working together, the Congress can reduce drug prices substantially from current levels. I have been speaking to Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and others in the Congress in order to get something on drug pricing done, and done quickly and properly,” Mr. Trump said. “I am calling for bipartisan legislation that achieves the goal of dramatically lowering prescription drug prices. Get a bill to my desk, and I will sign it into law without delay.”

The House has also passed legislation to lower prescription drug prices. This legislation is unlikely to reach the Senate floor. When Mr. Trump mentioned this goal, Pelosi shook her head. Several Democrats stood and chanted “H.R. 3” — the House bill to lower prescription drug prices.

Melania Trump presents Rush Limbaugh with Presidential Medal of Freedom

Mr. Trump praised one of the White House guests, radio host Rush Limbaugh, who was recently diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Limbaugh is an extremely controversial figure who hosts a popular right-wing radio show.

“Rush Limbaugh, thank you for your decades of tireless devotion to our country.  Rush, in recognition of all that you have done for our Nation, the millions of people a day that you speak to and inspire, and all of the incredible work that you have done for charity, I am proud to announce tonight that you will be receiving our country’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” Mr. Trump said.

Limbaugh gasped and teared up when Mr. Trump made this announcement. First lady Melania Trump then presented Limbaugh with the honor as they stood in the visitors gallery.

Trump slams “Medicare for All,” saying “we will never let socialism destroy American health care”

Mr. Trump took a shot at Democrats, including some senators running for president who support “Medicare for All.”

“There are those who want to take away your healthcare, take away your doctor, and abolish private insurance entirely,” Mr. Trump warned, pointing to 132 lawmakers who “have endorsed legislation to impose a socialist takeover of our healthcare system.”

They would be “wiping out the private health insurance plans of 180 million very happy Americans,” he said. “We will never let socialism destroy American healthcare!”

He also railed against Democrats who support legislation to provide undocumented immigrants with government-funded health care, saying, “over 130 lawmakers would bankrupt our nation by providing free taxpayer-funded healthcare to millions of illegal aliens.”

He promised, “We will always protect your Medicare and your Social Security,” although he signaled in January that he would consider cuts to these programs.

Trump offers scholarship to girl who was wait-listed

Picking up on a key issue for the Republican party and his education secretary, Betsy Devos, the president emphasized the importance of allowing families to choose where their students go to school. Too many children have been “trapped” in government schools, the president said.

Eighteen states, Mr. Trump said, have created school choice through opportunity scholarships. Mr. Trump pointed out one student on a wait list for such a scholarship, Janiyah Davis, a fourth-grade student from Philadelphia who is one of the White House guests seated in the first lady’s box.

Pennsylvania’s governor has vetoed school choice legislation. But in his speech, Mr. Trump announced the young girl is being awarded an opportunity scholarship, and will be going to the “school of your choice.”

The president urged more states to pass school choice initiatives.

White House reveals guests for State of the Union

The White House has announced the guests who will join Mr. Trump and first lady Melania Trump at his third State of the Union address.

Here are the 11 guests who will sit in the first lady’s box:

    • Stephanie and Janiyah Davis of Philadelphia: According to the White House, Stephanie Davis attempted to apply for a tax-credit scholarship for her daughter, Janiyah but remains on a waitlist after Pennsylvania’s governor vetoed school choice legislation.
    • Kelli and Gage Hake of Stillwater, Oklahoma: Kelli Hake’s husband, Army Staff Sergeant Christopher Hake, was killed in Iraq when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb supplied by Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, the White House said. Soleimani was killed last month in a drone strike ordered by the president.
    • Jody Jones of Farmersville, California: Jones’ brother, Rocket Jones, was fatally shot by an undocumented immigrant in California in late 2018. The shooter had been arrested in the past and twice deported, according to the White House.
    • Paul Morrow of Montgomery, Alabama: Morrow, an Army veteran, started a contracting business after his military service and is building a concrete plant in an Opportunity Zone in Alabama, the White House said.
    • Deputy Chief Raul Ortiz of Del Rio, Texas: Ortiz serves as the deputy chief of United States Border Patrol. He joined the Border Patrol in 1991.
  • Tony Rankins of Cincinnati, Ohio: A military veteran, Rankins suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in the Army and a drug addiction. He served several prison sentences, the White House said. Rankins now works at “R Investments,” which trained him in construction trades, and works in an Opportunity Zone in Cincinnati.
  • Robin and Ellie Schneider of Kansas City, Missouri: Ellie Schneider, now 2 years old, was born at 21 weeks and six days, making her one of the youngest babies to survive in the U.S., according to the White House.
  • Ivan Simonovis of Caracas, Venezuela: Simonovis served as the police commissioner in Caracas before he was imprisoned in 2004 for shielding protesters. He was detained for 15 years before fleeing house arrest last year and now lives in Florida.

Pelosi’s guest list focuses on health care

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is bringing guests who work in the health care industry or who are afflicted by health problems, in order to highlight her commitment to improving health care.

The four guests are:

  • California Surgeon General, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris
  • Jonah Cohen, who was diagnosed with Type I diabetes, and his mother Jennifer Pliner
  • Cheyanne Faulkner and Morgan Faulkner-twins living with Type I diabetes
  • Maryland naïve Xiomara Hung, battling a series of medical issues, and her mother Elena Hung

The guests will also bring attention to Trump policy positions that have threatened coverage for preexisting conditions.

“Tonight, President Trump will speak to an audience filled with Americans who are suffering because of his broken promises on prescription drug costs and his all-out assault on Americans with pre-existing conditions,” said Pelosi in a statement.  “It is my privilege to have among my guests several brave Americans whose stories and experiences show the life and death stakes of President Trump’s assault on affordable health care.”

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