Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 3 December 2020

Donald Trump to deliver victorious State of Union speech

His speech will not mention his continuing impeachment trial

Donald Trump is the second president in US history to give a State of the Union address as he is being impeached. AFP
Donald Trump is the second president in US history to give a State of the Union address as he is being impeached. AFP

US President Donald Trump is expected to deliver a triumphant State of the Union speech on Tuesday, boosting his re-election campaign against a divided Democratic party and ignoring the impeachment trial.

This could have been the darkest week of Mr Trump's administration, with only the third presidential impeachment trial in US history poised to end on Wednesday in a verdict.

Mr Trump has for months raged against his impeachment, calling it a "witch hunt" and blocking investigators.

But with the Republican Senate majority ready to toss out the abuse of office and obstruction charges in less than 24 hours, the property tycoon and TV personality is buoyant.

From the podium in the grand debating chamber of the House of Representatives, he will deliver the annual State of the Union in a "very optimistic tone", a White House aide said.

Mr Trump will speak of the strong economy and his often polarising war on illegal immigration, under the theme of the "great American comeback".

"I read the speech and the word 'impeachment' is not in it," White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told Fox News.

Mr Trump told TV network presenters at an annual lunch hosted by the White House that he would be "extraordinarily low-key" and was not feeling "bitter" at all, Politico reported.

But the president loves to stray from script and hates to play by the rules, so he may launch a few verbal bombs at legislators.

He spent part of Tuesday mocking the Democrats' shambolic kick-off to their primary season, saying that delays in the vote count in Iowa proved their incompetence.

"Nothing works, just like they ran the country," Mr Trump said on Twitter.

And reflecting the bitter atmosphere in the country ahead of the November presidential elections, prominent young left-wing politicians Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley were among Democrats declaring they would boycott the State of the Union.

"I will not use my presence at a state ceremony to normalise Trump's lawless conduct and subversion of the Constitution," Ms Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

The choices of guests to the big event tell their own stories as the election campaign picks up.

Mr Trump invited a senior border patrol officer, a woman whose brother was murdered by an illegal immigrant in 2018, and former Caracas police chief Ivan Simonovis, who spent years in jail under Venezuela's far-left government.

Democratic party leaders' guests will include about 80 doctors, patients and others symbolising what they say is the Trump administration's failure to tackle healthcare problems.

A sea of hostile Democratic legislators will watch him from the seats, as will the Republicans who hold a majority in the Senate and are all but sure to declare him not guilty in the impeachment verdict vote on Wednesday.

The speech could in theory be an opportunity to heal a nation boiling over in mistrust.

Mr Trump could express regret for what even several of his own Republican senators publicly say was wrongful behaviour in pushing Ukraine to open an investigation into one of his main Democratic presidential opponents, Joe Biden.

Or he could seek to calm the waters by entirely avoiding the topic of impeachment, just as Bill Clinton did during his post-impeachment State of the Union address in 1999.

Democrats in the House promise to keep pursuing Mr Trump even after the impeachment trial, saying he still wants to use the power of his office to distort the November election.

"The plot goes on, the scheming persists and the danger will never recede," Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment manager, said on Monday, challenging Republicans to "speak the awful truth."

But the main fight will shift to the campaign trail, where the Democrats are still trying to reduce a confusing number of candidates vying to take on Mr Trump in November.

Mr Trump has barely stopped campaigning since the day he took office in 2017 and his team has strong funding and organisation.

The Democrats, by contrast, are deeply divided between a leftist wing embodied by Bernie Sanders and moderates such as Mr Biden.

The chaos in Iowa, where officials were only able to release partial results late on Tuesday, prompted Mr Trump and his allies to gloat and fuel conspiracy theories about Democratic officials trying to rig the contest.

Mr Trump's campaign manager Brad Parscale told The Washington Post: "It would be natural for people to doubt the fairness of the process."

Mr Trump received even more good news on Tuesday with a Gallup poll showing his approval rating at its highest ever, at 49 per cent.

Support was up among Republicans and independents, although opposition among Democrats had deepened more than ever, the poll found.

Updated: February 5, 2020 05:42 AM

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