Trump addresses Congress: 'I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity'

"It is not compassion, but reckless to allow uncontrolled [U.S.] entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur," Trump said of his immigration policy Tuesday night.

By Doug G. Ware
Trump addresses Congress: 'I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity'
President Donald Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. Traditionally, the first address to a joint session of Congress by a newly-elected president is not referred to as a State of the Union. Pool Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 28 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump plowed through a long list of issues facing his presidency during his de facto State of the Union address Tuesday night.

First-year presidents don't give official State of the Union speeches because they have been in office for such a short time, but debut commanders in-chief do typically address a joint session of Congress at some point early in their administration. Trump spoke for a little more than an hour on Tuesday night.


"We are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms," Trump said after honoring the end of Black History Month. "I'm here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength."

The president took on a number of issues in his speech in the House chamber, as House Speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence looked on behind him.

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"What we are witnessing today is the renewal of the American spirit," Trump said.

The president has faced intense media and political scrutiny in the five weeks since his inauguration over a wide range of matters -- including Russia, immigration, national security, border security, environmental regulations and business.

On Jan. 27, Trump signed Executive Order 13769, an action to close off U.S. borders to all refugees worldwide and immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries.

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"We have defended the borders of other nations while leaving our own borders wide open," he said. "We want all Americans to succeed -- but that can't happen in an environment of lawless chaos. We must restore integrity and the rule of law at our borders."

The order has been blocked in federal court while its legality is fully weighed. Trump's administration, though, has hinted that it might scrap the old order and produce a new draft that can better stand up to legal scrutiny.

"It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled [U.S.] entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur. Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values," Trump said. "We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorists to form inside America."

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The president also announced the creation of a new Department of Homeland Security office, called VOICE -- which stands for victims of immigration crime engagement. It was met with several groans in the chamber. Trump said the new office will represent victims he said were forgotten by the government and "ignored" by the news media.

"I want you to know -- we will never stop fighting for justice. Your loved ones will never be forgotten; we will always honor their memory," he told a family impacted by immigrant crime in attendance.

Earlier Tuesday, Trump said for the first time that he is open to an immigration policy that provides a path to legal status, but not U.S. citizenship, as a measure to fight domestic terrorism.

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"I directed the Department of Defense to develop a plan to demolish and destroy [the Islamic State] -- a network of lawless savages that have slaughtered Muslims and Christians, and men, women and children of all faiths and beliefs. We will work with our allies, including our friends and allies in the Muslim world, to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet," he said of terrorist factions, emphatically referring to them as "radical Islamic extremists."


Trump also touched on what he considers a business renaissance in the United States, noting his corporate accomplishments since taking office Jan. 20 with companies like Ford, Fiat Chrysler and Lockheed Martin, the latter allowing hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings on the production of the F-35 Lightning fighter jet.

"Job crushing" regulations implemented by former President Barack Obama, he said, have been eliminated in that pursuit.

"For too long, we've watched our middle class shrink as we've exported our jobs and wealth to foreign countries," Trump said.

As expected, the president also pledged to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Obama's signature healthcare package.

"Mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for America," he said. "The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we will do."

"We now know that all of those [ACA] promises were totally broken. ... I am calling on all Democrats and Republicans to work together to save us from this imploding Obamacare disaster."

In his pledge to replace the ACA with a better system, Trump assured that people with pre-existing conditions will still be able to find coverage and that Americans can choose the plan that is right for them instead of having plans "forced" on them.


Two other key elements of the president's healthcare vision, he said, is lowering the cost of drugs and allowing citizens to buy insurance plans in other states.

"Our citizens deserve this and so much more, so why not join forces and finally get the job done and get it done right?" Trump asked. "Democrats and Republicans should get together to unite."

Following the president's address, former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear delivered the Democratic response:

Actress Rosie O'Donnell talks to members of the media after speaking at a rally in Lafayette Park, next to the White House with other advocates gathered to denounce President Donald Trump and his policies before his first address to Congress in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. The demonstration was sponsored by the ACLU,, DailyKos and other organizations. Photo by Erin Schaff/UPI

Meanwhile, ahead of Trump's speech, actress Rosie O'Donnell led a protest of a few hundred people outside the White House. The demonstration was dubbed "A Resistance Address: Defending American Values in a Time of Moral Crisis."


"This is not Russia. To Donald Trump and his pathetic band of white, privileged criminal businessmen, I would like to say to him, 'nyet, sir,'" O'Donnell said.

Other notable remarks in Trump's address:

-- "This is not acceptable in our society," he said of rises in rates of crime and murder. "To create this future we must work with -- not against, not against -- the men and women of law enforcement."

-- "Our partners must meet their financial obligations. And now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that," he said after commending NATO as a valued U.S. partner. "The money is pouring in. Very nice."

-- "My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America."

-- "If we slash the restraints across our government then we will be blessed with far more miracles just like Megan," he said of attendee Megan Crowley, a rare disease survivor of a muscle and nerve affliction called Pompe disease.

-- "Education is the civil rights issue of our time. I am calling upon members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children."


-- "When we have all of this we will have made America greater than ever before. For America, this is our vision but we can only get there together. ... We are one people, with one destiny. We all bleed the same blood. We all salute the same flag. And we are all made by the same God.."

-- "I am asking all citizens to embrace this renewal of the American spirit. I am asking all members of Congress to join me in dreaming big and bold and daring things for our country. And I am asking everyone watching tonight to seize this moment and believe in yourselves, believe in your future and believe once more in America."

-- "In 2016, the Earth shifted beneath our feet. The rebellion started as a quiet protest, spoken by families of all colors and creeds -- families who just wanted a fair shot for their children, and a fair hearing for their concerns."

-- "Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people."

-- "We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a five- year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials -- and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government."


-- "Bad ones [undocumented immigrants] are going out as I speak. To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this question: What would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income or a loved one because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?"

-- "I have kept my promise to appoint a justice to the United States Supreme Court -- from my list of 20 judges who will defend our Constitution."

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