I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, February 5, 2020. 6 days until the New Hampshire primary. 273 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.
Trump celebrates "comeback" as partisan tensions dominate
President Donald Trump delivered his third State of the Union address on Tuesday, reeling off economic statistics to declare in primetime that he had engineered a "great American comeback."
Trump made no mention of the ongoing impeachment saga in the speech — even as he stood in the House chamber where he became the third president in U.S. history to be impeached last year. Instead, the president focused on his bureaucratic triumphs, letting his expected acquittal in the Senate later today hang in the air as subtext.
"In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American decline, and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny," Trump said, at once boasting of his own success and diminishing his predecessor's efforts. "We are moving forward at a pace that was unimaginable just a short time ago, and we are never going back."
"I am thrilled to report to you tonight that our economy is the best it has ever been. Our military is completely rebuilt, with its power being unmatched anywhere in the world, and it's not even close. Our borders are secure, our families are flourishing, our values are renewed, our pride is restored," he continued, adding: "The state of our union is stronger than ever before."
As in his previous State of the Union addresses, Trump largely refrained from delving into the partisan fights that often mark his rally speeches and bombastic tweetstorms, although he did warn of a "socialist takeover of our health-care system" and pepper the speech with "stretched facts and dubious figures," according to the Washington Post's Fact Checker. ("It’s pretty simple. Democrats are trying to make your health care better. Republicans in Washington are trying to take it away," Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer responded in the Democratic rebuttal.)
But even unmentioned, the partisan tensions that have divided Washington in the Trump era were far from absent during the proceedings, a once-solemn tradition. The president entered the room to chants of "four more years" from congressional Republicans; when he handed copies of his speech to Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as is customary, Pelosi offered an outstretched hand but Trump declined to shake it.
Shrugging, Pelosi then broke with precedent by simply introducing Trump by title, instead of adding that it was her "high privilege and distinct honor." At the speech's conclusion, Pelosi — adorned in suffragette white, along with other allies in the chamber — stood and ripped up her copy, later describing it as a "manifesto of mistruths."
The speech was frequently interrupted by cheers and thunderous applause by Republicans. The Democrats in attendance — many in the party opted to skip the speech altogether — remained seating, often booing and groaning while their colleagues celebrated. One of Pelosi's guests, the father of a Parkland shooting victim, was ejected from the speech after loudly interrupting Trump's pledge to protect the Second Amendment.
Trump's showman streak was also on display throughout the night: at various points in the 78-minute address, he surprised conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh by awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the nation's highest civilian honor), a Philadelphia fourth-grader by giving her a school choice scholarship, and a military family by their Army sergeant father.
"Tonight, we have a very special surprise," he told Amy Williams as her spouse walked into the chamber. "I am thrilled to inform you that your husband is back from deployment. He is here with us tonight. And we couldn't keep him waiting any longer." The husband and wife hugged as chants of "USA!" erupted.
"The American age, the American epic, the American adventure has only just begun. Our spirit is still young. The sun is still rising. God's grace is still shining. And my fellow Americans, the best is yet to come," Trump promised at the speech's conclusion, his final State of the Union address before voters are given the choice this fall to end his presidency or extend it for another four years.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rips up her copy of President Donald Trump's State of the Union address at the conclusion of the speech. (Erin Schaff/New York Times)
Buttigieg, Sanders leading in initial Iowa results
Initial results from the Iowa Democratic caucuses were released on Tuesday after a daylong delay. With 71% of precincts reporting, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg currently leads the delegate race, taking 26.8% of the state delegates to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' 25.2%.
Former Vice President Joe Biden sunk to fourth place, with 15.4% of delegates, cushioned between Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 18.4% and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar at 12.6%. Sanders is currently leading in terms of raw votes after the first and final alignments at each caucus site.
Releasing the results on Tuesday, Iowa Democratic Party chairman Troy Price apologized for the technical failures that led to the reporting delay, which he called "unacceptable." The late results are expected to threaten the momentum boost Buttigieg and Sanders would have otherwise received following the caucuses, and limit the damage to Biden's shaken campaign.
Buttigieg, a former small-town mayor who would be the first openly gay man to win a presidential primary contest if the results hold, told supporters in New Hampshire that the results "validate" the success of his unlikely campaign.
"It validates the idea that we can expand a coalition not only unified around who it is we’re against, but around what it is that we’re for,” he said, appearing to become emotional. "And it validates for a kid somewhere in a community, wondering if he belongs or she belongs or they belong in their own family, that if you believe in yourself and your country, there’s a lot backing up that belief.”
President Donald Trump will have lunch with Defense Secretary Mark Esper at 12:30 p.m.
Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Pennsylvania to deliver remarks on school choice and headline a "Women for Trump" event.
The Senate will convene at 9:30 a.m. for morning business, with senators permitted to speak for up to 10 minutes each. At 4 p.m., the chamber will convene as a Court of Impeachment and vote on the two articles of impeachment against President Trump.
Trump is widely expected to be acquitted by the Senate vote. A number of swing Republicans — including Lamar Alexander of Tennesse, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have announced plans to side with the president, leaving only the vote of Utah's Mitt Romney in question. There are also a number of moderate Democrats who are seen as possible votes to acquit, including Alabama's Doug Jones, West Virginia's Joe Manchin, and Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema.
The House will convene at 10 a.m. and vote on 19 pieces of legislation.
*All times Eastern
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