President Donald Trump delivered his first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, February 28, and it included promises, finger-pointing (literally and figuratively) and even some emotional moments. Read on for Us Weekly‘s complete recap, and start at the bottom to get it in chronological order.
10:12 p.m. ET: Despite hitting familiar (and occasionally divisive) notes throughout, Trump’s speech tonight has been remarkably composed in a way we’ve rarely seen from him previously. And this time, it ended with an uncharacteristic call for unity. “This is our vision. This is our mission. But we can only get there together,” he said. “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.”
It remains to be seen if Americans, many of whom have continued to protest en masse since the election, heed the call. But it’s worth noting that in the immediate aftermath, while the Republicans of Congress stood and applauded, most of the opposing Democratic party wordlessly turned and left the room.
10:08 p.m. ET: It’s just one moment, but it goes on forever and is going to be one of the most talked-about of tonight’s speech: Carryn Owens, the widow of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens, who was killed in the recent controversial raid on Yemen, is seated in the gallery next to Ivanka Trump — and the camera lingers on her while she cries.
10 p.m. ET: Those aforementioned victims of crimes by illegal immigrants are indeed present tonight, and Trump pointed to them in what’s sure to be a controversial moment from tonight’s speech: the announcement of a newly created body called VOICE (which stands for Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement). This is one concrete result of Trump’s promise to crack down on immigration; it’s also unsurprising, considering his early campaign statement that Mexico was sending rapists across the border into the U.S., along with the previous mention of “bad hombres” who supposedly enter the country illegally and commit criminal acts.
9:53 p.m. ET: Trump introduced a survivor of a rare childhood disease, 20-year-old Megan Crowley, whose father launched a one-man crusade to develop the drug that ultimately saved her life. It’s an interesting segue into a segment on the need for deregulation at government bodies such as the FDA, where onerous approval processes can tie up the development of medications for years.
9:49 p.m. ET: Take a drink if you heard the words “repeal and replace” on your congressional address Bingo card: Trump is officially talking about Obamacare, and sticking to the rhetoric he fell in love with on the campaign trail. He blasts the individual mandate; he also promises that pre-existing conditions will stay covered and that a smooth transition for those on the exchanges is guaranteed.
Trump’s suggested replacement system has several tenets, including tax credits and HSAs, state-by-state flexibility on Medicaid, legal reforms to drive down drug costs and a freer market for health insurance that allows purchases across state lines.
9:38 p.m. ET: Trump lamented the myriad ills he’s “inherited” as president, including trade snarls overseas and joblessness. (His second claim doesn’t appear to check out; with the U.S. at less than 5 percent unemployment nationwide for the first time since 2008, Trump was handed a far healthier economy than his predecessor.) However, the assembled crowd breaks into applause when he started talking about taxes, and particularly about lowering them. Some members of Congress looked downright delighted.
9:34 p.m. ET: Justice Antonin Scalia’s widow, Maureen, is in attendance tonight, and got a round of prolonged applause. Trump took this opportunity to mention and demand swift approval for Neil Gorsuch, his Supreme Court nominee to replace the late Justice Scalia.
9:30 p.m. ET: “We must restore integrity and the rule of law at our borders,” said Trump, promising once again to build a “great, great wall” (evidently not to be confused with China’s famous wall, which only gets one “great”) between the U.S. and Mexico. He also invokes the specter of innocent Americans who lose jobs or even family members to illegal immigrants. (It was reported earlier today that Trump had invited the victims of crimes committed by immigrants to be his guests tonight, although we aren’t sure if they’re in attendance or not.)
This Mexico-specific discussion then segues into a larger indictment of other threats from abroad, including ISIS, which Trump promises again to stamp out.
9:25 p.m. ET: Trump returned to his “drain the swamp” rhetoric, but in this case delved into specifics about the measures he’s already put in place: a hiring freeze on “nonessential” government workers, a five-year ban on lobbying by nonexecutive branch government officials and a lifetime ban on lobbying for a foreign government. There was also a mention of the two-for-one regulation elimination rule aimed at reducing bureaucratic red tape.
9:20 p.m. ET: The first few minutes of Trump’s remarks covered familiar ground, either from his appearances on the campaign trail or his inaugural speech. After reiterating old accusations that the country has sacrificed American jobs, security and well-being in favor of a global agenda, he refers to the 2016 election as “an earthquake” heralding the dawn of a great-again USA.
9:13 p.m. ET: Right out of the gate, Trump resolved a major question about the contents of his speech tonight, addressing both the recent rash of anti-Semitic incidents across the nation, as well as the attack in Kansas earlier this week by a man targeting Indian immigrants.
“We are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms,” Trump said, earning applause.
9:10 p.m. ET: First lady Melania Trump got a standing ovation when her husband mentioned her from the podium.
9:08 p.m. ET: After a last-minute speech rehearsal in his presidential SUV, Trump arrived and made his way to the podium, shaking hands with members of Congress on his way in. Despite some questions as to how Trump would be received, it didn’t look like anyone snubbed him as he walked down the aisle. (It still remains to be seen whether any Democrats erupt with a Joe Wilson–esque retort during his speech.)
8 p.m. ET: President Donald Trump will be addressing a joint session of Congress in a speech tonight, Tuesday, February 28, at 9:10 p.m. ET. You can watch it live in the embedded YouTube player (via the White House) above.
This marks Trump’s first major oration as commander in chief since his January 20 inauguration. Similar to a State of the Union address, the ex–Celebrity Apprentice host, 70, will speak to an audience including Vice President Mike Pence, and members of the Senate, the House, the Cabinet and, most likely, the Supreme Court.
According to a preview outline distributed by the White House, the 45th POTUS will share an “optimistic vision” for the United States, push a “bold agenda” and elaborate on his promise to “save American families from the disaster of Obamacare.” The outline states that Trump’s speech will “invite Americans of all backgrounds to come together,” while stressing his desire to represent the country’s “forgotten men and women.”
During a Tuesday morning appearance on Fox & Friends, the real estate tycoon was asked to give himself a letter grade for his first 40 days in office. “I think I get an A in terms of what I’ve actually done, but in terms of messaging, I’d give myself a C or a C-plus,” he said. “I think I’ve done great things but I don’t think I — I and my people — I don’t think we’ve explained it well enough to the American public.”
Steve Beshear, former governor of Kentucky and a staunch supporter of former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare), who expanded Medicare in his historically red state, will deliver the Democratic response to Trump’s speech tonight. Immigration activist Astrid Silva is also expected to give a response in Spanish.
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