DONALD Trump last night blasted wealthy elites for backing “open borders while living behind walls”.
In a State of the Union speech marked by calls for unity, the president did not hold back in his criticism of Democrat politicians blocking his $5.7bn border wall plan.
President Trump delivering his State of the Union address in front of Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy PelosiAFP
Donald Trump’s speech to Congress contained boasts about America’s economy and jobs – but he blasted opponents over the border wallAFP or licensors
Speaking to Congress on Tuesday evening, Trump accused “wealthy politicians and donors” of pushing “for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards.”
He said that his administration is calling for “safe, lawful, modern and secure” border security.
The president announced he had sent another 3,750 troops to defend against the “onslaught” of illegal immigration.
And he said that the US has a “moral duty” to protect its citizens – as well as immigrants who entered the country legally to “enrich our nation an strengthen our society in countless ways”.
“I want people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever – but they have to come in legally”, the president said.
‘I’LL GET IT BUILT’
Calling for steel barriers to be erected in areas that require the most need, Trump added: “Put simply, walls work and walls save lives.”
He said: “This is a smart, strategic, see-through steel barrier – not just a simple concrete wall.
“It will be deployed in the areas identified by border agents as having the greatest need, and as these agents will tell you, where walls go up, illegal crossings go way, way down.”
The president then added: “In the past, most of the people in this room voted for a wall. But the proper wall never got built.”
Looking steely-eyed, he added: “I’ll get it built.”
Democrats call the wall a waste of money and ineffective.
Meanwhile, the president flaunted America’s economic success under his administration.
The jobs market is vibrant, he said – while he boasted of the United States’ energy production capabilities.
But he claimed that “ridiculous partisan investigations” like the Russian collusion probe could derail America’s prosperity.
He said: “An economic miracle is taking place in the United States and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations.”
Democrats, who now control the House, planned a series of probes into the Trump administration.
A special prosecutor is investigating Russian meddling into the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
Russia denies meddling and Trump has said there was no collusion.
AFP Melania Trump with special invited guests to the State of the Union address, including 10-year-old cancer survivor Grace Eline, right[/caption]
Getty Images – Getty Astronaut Buzz Aldrin was also in attendance, and saluted the president[/caption]
Doug Mills/The New York Times President Trump shook hands with his political opponent Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat House Speaker[/caption]
Trump’s prime-time address – the longest since President Clinton in 2000 – came at a critical moment in his presidency.
He pushed his party into a lengthy government shutdown over the border wall – only to cave to Democrats who refused to hand over funding.
With another shutdown deadline looming on February 15, the president has few options for getting Congress to fund a border wall.
And he risks further alienating his party if he tries to bypass lawmakers by declaring a national emergency instead.
But Trump began his speech with a tone of “cooperation, compromise and the common good”.
He said: “I stand here ready to work with you to achieve historic breakthroughs for all Americans”.
CALLS FOR UNITY
The president added that Americans are “hoping that we will govern not as two parties, but as one nation.”
He continued: “We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make.
“We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction.
“Tonight I ask you to choose greatness.”
But as he condemned political turmoil in Venezuela, Trump declared that “America will never be a socialist country”.
His remark was seen as targeting high-profile Democrats such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders who identify as socialists.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was praised by Democrats for her hard-line negotiating during the shutdown, sat behind Trump throughout the speech.
She joined several other Democrat women in wearing white – the colour worn by suffragettes.
But reaching out an olive branch to opponents, Trump praised the record-breaking number of women in the American workforce.
Democrat congresswoman, who were the big winners in the recent mid-term elections, then stood for applause.
At this point, the president joked: “Don’t sit down yet, you’re going to love this.”
Pointing to the Congresswomen, he added: “We also have more women serving in Congress than at any time before”.
Shouts of “USA! USA!” then rang out from both sides of the chamber – one of many occasions the chant was bellowed by lawmakers.
In other pitches across the political divide, Trump announced:
He was eager to work with Congress on a $1bn infrastructure investment
Efforts to bring about cheaper prescription medications
He wishes to reduce rates of childhood cancer
Efforts to create nationwide paid family leave
A campaign to end the HIV epidemic in the United States by 2030
And the 72-year-old Trump hearkened back to moments of American greatness.
He celebrated the 50th anniversary year of the moon landing as astronaut Buzz Aldrin looked on from the audience.
Heralding the liberation of Europe from the Nazis, Trump led the House chamber in singing happy birthday to a Holocaust survivor sitting with first lady Melania Trump.
The president said: “Together, we represent the most extraordinary nation in all of history.
“What will we do with this moment? How will we be remembered?”
Let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: children, born and unborn, are made in the image of God
President Donald TrumpState of the Union speech 2019
But the president also defended his political stomping ground with fervent opposition to the relaxation of abortion laws.
He said: “To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb.”
To cheers from Republicans, Trump added: “Let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: children, born and unborn, are made in the image of God.”
Trump also defended his record on military spending – and his administration’s efforts to get allies to “pay their fair share”.
The president said: “We will never apologise for advancing America’s interests.”
And he praised his policy on North Korea, saying: “If I had not been elected president of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea.”
He also announced he would be meeting Kim Jong Un for a further round of talks in Vietnam on 27 and 28 February.
Trump has said that his outreach to Kim and their first meeting last June in Singapore opened a path to peace.
But there is not yet a concrete plan for how denuclearization could be implemented.
US intelligence chiefs believe there is little likelihood Kim will voluntarily give up his nuclear weapons or missiles capable of carrying them.
Private analysts reviewing commercial satellite imagery have assessed that the North is still developing nuclear and missile technology despite suspending tests.
As his economic advisers work to complete a trade deal with China, Trump said any agreement “must include real, structural change to end unfair trade practices, reduce our chronic trade deficit, and protect American jobs.”
He also called out Iran for threats against Israel.
The President said: “We will not avert our eyes from a regime that chants Death to America and threatens genocide against the Jewish people”.
Trump also gave his support for an effort to coax Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro into leaving power.
And he declaring the Islamic State militant group all but defeated.
Trump’s guests for the speech included Anna Marie Johnson – a woman whose life sentence for drug offences was commuted by the president.
Joshua Trump, a sixth-grade student from Wilmington, Delaware, who has been bullied over his last name, was also invited.
They sat with first lady Melania Trump – who wore a £2,000 Burberry military-style black outfit during the address.
President Trump called for unity – but blasted elites for pushing open borders while living behind walls themselvesAFP
Reuters Democratic Congresswoman wore white – the colour of the suffragette movement[/caption]
AFP President Trump’s speech featured appeals for unity as well as calls for contested border wall funding[/caption]
President Trump announced on Tuesday that he would hold further talks with his North Korean counterpart later this monthAFP
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