Seeking to move past the shadow of the Russia investigation, President Donald Trump intends to use his first State of the Union address to highlight his trade policies and make a pitch to Democrats on immigration, he said Monday.
Trump told reporters that the "big speech" would be important for what he says on trade, saying, "The world has taken advantage of us on trade for many years and, as you've probably noticed, we're stopping that." He added that it would cover immigration as well, noting that he needed Democratic votes to pass a bill resolving the fate of young people covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
White House officials have also said he would cite economic progress under his watch while pushing for bipartisanship with Democrats on issues such as rebuilding roads and bridges.
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But he won't be the only one using the speech to send a message. Some female Democratic members of Congress will wear black in solidarity with victims of sexual harassment and assault, dozens of young immigrants will be in the gallery at the invitation of House Democratic leadership and so will Bill Nye the Science Guy, a critic of the president's who is nevertheless working with Trump's pick for the leader of NASA.
The White House said Sunday that the president would point to a robust economy and low unemployment during his first year and the benefits of a tax overhaul during Tuesday's address to Congress and the nation. Aides have said Trump, who stayed at the White House over the weekend as he prepared, is expected to set aside his more combative tone for one of compromise and bipartisanship.
"The president is going to talk about how America's back," said White House legislative director Marc Short. "The president is also going to make an appeal to Democrats ... to say we need to rebuild our country. And to make an appeal that to do infrastructure, we need to do it in a bipartisan way."
Short said Trump would urge Democrats to support additional military spending in light of "dramatic threats on the global scene."
White House officials have said the theme of the annual address will be "building a safe, strong and proud America" and that Trump was looking to showcase the accomplishments of his first year while setting the tone for the second.
Trump on Tuesday noted the trade and immigration portions of his speech, and added to reporters at the White House, gathered for the swearing-in of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, "We have a lot of important things to discuss, and we'll be discussing them, and I hope you enjoy it."
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wouldn't tell reporters what will be in the speech, but did say what she thought of the state of the union today.
"I think it's incredible and I think you'll hear that in the president's words," Sanders said. "The economy is booming, ISIS is on the run, we're remaking the judiciary."
As Trump looks ahead, special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible obstruction of justice and Trump campaign ties to Russian meddling in the 2016 election grinds on.
It often has distracted from the president's message. For example, Trump's address to financial and global leaders in Davos, Switzerland, last week followed reports that he ordered a top White House lawyer to fire Mueller last June but backed off when the lawyer threatened to resign. Trump called the report "fake news."
On the policy front, immigration is an immediate flashpoint for Trump and Congress. In the prime-time speech Tuesday, the president plans to promote his proposal for $25 billion for a wall along the Mexican border and for a path to citizenship for nearly 2 million young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Trump's plan includes billions for border security and significant changes to legal immigration long sought by hard-liners within the Republican Party. But some conservatives have warned that the deal would amount to "amnesty" for the young immigrants known as Dreamers, and many Democrats and immigration activists have outright rejected it.
"I think all of us realize that it's going to take a compromise on this issue for us to get something done and to protect the Dreamer population, which is certainly a goal of mine," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. "But I think the president is also right about border security, that we do need to beef up our border security."
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., called Trump's proposal "a good starting point."
"Let's see if it's something that we can agree on, something we need to adjust, something we can negotiate with," he said.
Part of Trump's goal in the speech is to set the course of the debate as Republicans look to retain their majority in Congress. He is expected to say the tax overhaul will unleash economic growth and he will point to companies that have provided their employees with $1,000 bonuses and other benefits.
Trump plans to outline a nearly $2 trillion plan that his administration contends will trigger $1 trillion or more in public and private spending on roads, bridges and other public works projects.
On trade, Trump will note his preference for one-on-one deals instead of multilateral agreements, building on his speech at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.
And he will offer an update on the fight against terrorism and his view of international threats, including North Korea. A senior administration official providing a preview of the speech said Trump probably would avoid the taunts of "Little Rocket Man" for Kim Jong Un and "fire and fury" that he used before. The official wasn't authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Trump's guests for his speech include an Ohio welder who has benefited from his tax overhaul and the parents of two Long Island teenagers who were believed to be killed by MS-13 gang members.
Sanders says his other guests for Tuesday's address will be Americans who have battled wildfires in California and flooding in Texas, as well as a soldier who re-enlisted to fight against the Islamic State group after losing his legs and going blind from a roadside bomb.
The address comes at a critical point for the president. He is battling poor approval ratings and is trying to move past the government shutdown that coincided with the anniversary of his inauguration. He's also preparing for a grueling midterm election season that has tripped up other first-term presidents.
Trump was not expected to embark on an extensive sales pitch around the country after the speech. He plans to address a Republican congressional retreat in West Virginia on Thursday. Vice President Mike Pence will attend a tax overhaul event in West Virginia on Wednesday and speak to the GOP congressional retreat later in the day. Pence will hold events in the Pittsburgh area Friday.
Short spoke on "Fox News Sunday" and CBS' "Face the Nation." Collins spoke on CNN's "State of the Union," and Manchin spoke on CNN's "State of the Union" and NBC's "Meet the Press."
Here's a look at some of the ways lawmakers are using the speech to make a point:
Many female Democratic lawmakers plan to follow the lead of celebrities at this year's Golden Globe Awards by wearing black to the State of the Union.
Allegations of sexual harassment have had a big impact on Capitol Hill in recent months, forcing resignations and retirements on both sides of the political aisle as well as ongoing Ethics Committee investigations.
"Wearing black to #SOTU isn't about Trump," tweeted Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla. "It's about showing solidarity with a movement- from hotels to farm fields, to Congress, we're standing with workers to end sexual harassment in all workplaces."
Some lawmakers are also bringing attention to the issue through the guest they have invited to the State of the Union. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., has invited Chessy Prout, a victim of sexual assault while she attended high school.
"The conversation about sexual harassment and assault in our nation is long overdue, but through the efforts of Chessy and the #MeToo movement, it is finally gaining steam," Kuster said.
FACES OF IMMIGRATION
Dozens of young immigrants will be sitting in the House gallery overlooking the president as he speaks. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and other Democratic lawmakers invited them to put a face on an immigration debate that is dominating Congress's attention.
The guests are among the nearly 700,000 people who received protection from deportation under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Trump canceled the program last year but gave Congress until March to come up with a legislative fix.
The "Dreamers" in the gallery include aspiring nurse Karen Bahena of San Diego and Virginia high school student Nicolle Uria, who was brought into the United States as a 1-year-old. Bahena is the guest of Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif. Uria is the guest of Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.
"This country is all she has ever known and through her volunteer work she has made our community better," Connolly said.
Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., is also making a statement on immigration. His guest, Tommy Fisher, is president of a company that was given a contract to develop a prototype wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.
"As Congress develops comprehensive immigrant enforcement legislation, I am proud to know a North Dakota company is a finalist to construct the border wall between our nation and Mexico," Cramer said.
At least five Democratic lawmakers have announced they are boycotting the president's address: Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, John Lewis of Georgia, Frederica Wilson of Florida and Maxine Waters of California.
"Rather than listening to yet another destructive and divisive speech by Trump, I will not attend this year's annual address to Congress," said Blumenauer, who also skipped the Trump inauguration.
THE SCIENCE GUY
Bill Nye the Science Guy is also on the guest list. The harsh critic of Trump's environmental policies is the guest of Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine, Trump's nominee to serve as the next administrator of NASA.
Nye said he has enjoyed a productive working relationship with Bridenstine on space issues.
Democratic lawmakers have been highly critical of Bridenstine, saying that placing a politician at the head of the agency, instead of someone steeped in the sciences, would be a mistake. A Senate committee approved Bridenstine's nomination on a party-line vote, but the full Senate hasn't yet taken it up.
"I hope to hear the president present plans for an ambitious, science-driven space exploration agenda," Nye said.
Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts will deliver the Democratic response to the president's address. He is the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, the former senator and U.S. attorney general, and the son of former Rep. Joseph Kennedy II, who served in the House from 1987 to 1999. Democratic leaders are pitching Kennedy as someone who can champion Democratic policies to the middle class.