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Trump in State of the Union: 'We must go forward together'

By
Daniel Uria and Nicholas Sakelaris
President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address Tuesday night at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Photo by Doug Mills/UPI
President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address Tuesday night at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Photo by Doug Mills/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 5 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump delivered his second state of the Union Address Tuesday night, calling on Americans to "go forward together" as he pledged to build a border wall and reach new foreign trade deals.

The theme for the address was "Choosing Greatness," a continuation of his 2016 campaign slogan "Make America Great Again" and Trump called on Americans to "rekindle the bonds of love and loyalty and memory that link us together as citizens, as neighbors, as patriots."

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"This is our future -- our fate -- and our choice to make. I am asking you to choose greatness," he said. "No matter the trials we face, no matter the challenges to come, we must go forward together."

Trump delivered the belated annual address before a joint session of Congress in the House chamber, as he pledged to get a border wall built and called on lawmakers to approve his "common sense" proposal for an expanded physical border at the U.S.-Mexico border that was at the center of the government shutdown that pushed the address back a week.

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"It includes humanitarian assistance, more law enforcement, drug detection at our ports, closing loopholes that enable child smuggling, and plans for a new physical barrier, or wall, to secure the vast areas between our ports of entry," Trump said of his plan. "In the past, most of the people in this room voted for a wall -- but the proper wall never got built. I'll get it built."

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He went on to describe his vision for the barrier, which he said would be a "strategic, see-through steel barrier" and not a 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 down," Trump said.

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With 10 days left before the stopgap bill currently funding the government expires, Trump asked Congress to reach a deal to provide the $5.7 billion to erect the border.

"Let's work together, compromise, and reach a deal that will truly make America safe," he said.

Trump mentioned reports of a new migrant caravan of up to 2,000 people making their way to the Texas-Mexico border, possibly seeking asylum in the United States. The president added he has ordered another 3,750 troops to the border.

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"This is a moral issue. The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security, and financial well‑being of all Americans. We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens," Trump said.

He added part of the duty is to fulfill the obligation to immigrants currently living in the United States.

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"Legal immigrants enrich our nation and strengthen our society in countless ways. I want people to come into our country, but they have to come in legally," he said.

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Trump addressed a number of international conflicts, including reiterating his support of Venezuelan National Assembly President Juan Guaido, who declared himself the country's interim president, opposing President Nicolas Maduro.

"We stand with the Venezuelan people in their noble quest for freedom -- and we condemn the brutality of the Maduro regime, whose socialist policies have turned that nation from being the wealthiest in South America into a state of abject poverty and despair," Trump said.

He also called for a renewed resolve that America "will never be a socialist country."

Discussing his policies on the Middle East, Trump reinforced his call to withdraw thousands of U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan.

"As we work with our allies to destroy the remnants of ISIS, it is time to give our brave warriors in Syria a warm welcome home," he said, referring to the fight against the Islamic State.

Earlier in the day, the Senate passed a Middle East policy bill including an amendment by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, rebuking the troop withdrawal.

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The president added he has accelerated negotiations to reach a political settlement in Afghanistan and that the administration is holding talks with Afghan groups, including the Taliban.

"As we make progress in these negotiations, we will be able to reduce our troop presence and focus on counterterrorism," Trump said. "We do not know whether we will achieve an agreement -- but we do know that after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace."

Trump addressed international trade, $250 billion worth of tariffs recently imposed on Chinese goods, in the midst of an ongoing trade war between the two countries.

"We are now making it clear to China that after years of targeting our industries, and stealing our intellectual property, the theft of American jobs and wealth has come to an end," Trump said.

He added he has "great respect" for Chinese President Xi Jinping and the two are working on a new trade deal.

"It must include real, structural change to end unfair trade practices, reduce our chronic trade deficit, and protect American jobs," Trump said.

Trump also described the North American Free Trade Agreement as a "historic blunder" and praised the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement as a replacement for the deal that would provide more American manufacturing.

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He called on Congress to pass the United States Reciprocal Trade Act to allow greater freedom in imposing tariffs on foreign countries.

"If another country places an unfair tariff on an American product, we can charge them the exact same tariff on the same product that they sell to us," Trump said.

Trump also called for Congress to pass reforms of the healthcare system, including requiring drug companies, insurance companies and hospitals to disclose real prices "to foster competition and bring costs down."

Other policies Trump highlighted the address were school choice for American children, nationwide paid family leave and prohibiting late-term abortions

Trump opened his address with a call for bipartisanship.

"As we begin a new Congress, I stand here ready to work with you to achieve historic breakthroughs for all Americans. Millions of our fellow citizens are watching us now, gathered in this great chamber, hoping that we will govern not as two parties but as one nation. The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat agenda. It is the agenda of the American people," he said.

He also made a plea for an end to divisive politics, evoking "resistance" a phrase often touted by anti-Trump protesters and a goal he has frequently attributed to Democrats.

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"We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution -- and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good," he said. "Together, we can break decades of political stalemate."

Early in the speech, Trump plainly described his belief in the strength of the United States.

"Members of Congress, the state of our union is strong," Trump said.

The declaration was met with an ovation as a chant of "USA" broke out in the chamber.

"That sounds so good," Trump said. "Our country is vibrant, and our economy is thriving like never before."

In addition to Congress, the address was attended by the U.S. Supreme Court and 13 hand-picked guests by the Trump administration, including a sixth-grader named Josh Trump, who's been bullied for sharing a name with the president, relatives of an elderly Nevada couple who were killed, allegedly by an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, and Alice Johnson, who had a life sentence commuted by Trump in June.

As he closed out the speech, Trump hearkened back to the themes of unity and "Choosing Greatness."

"We must choose whether we are defined by our differences -- or whether we dare to transcend them," he said. "We must choose whether we will squander our inheritance -- or whether we will proudly declare that we are Americans. We do the incredible. We defy the impossible. We conquer the unknown."

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