As he sets foot on the House floor Tuesday night, Donald Trump will become only the second impeached president to deliver a State of the Union address after being impeached by the body he faces. Still, he'll be less than 24 hours away from an all-but-certain acquittal.
Looking out onto the storied chamber of the United States House of Representatives, the president is delivering a message two camps — those who are with him, and those who are not. Using his typical brash language, Mr. Trump has continued in recent weeks to lash out at Democrats — reserving particular ire for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will sit next to him, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who has been instrumental in guiding the impeachment process to where it is now. According to a Pelosi spokesperson, Mr. Trump and Pelosi have not spoken since an October 2019 White House meeting that disintegrated so badly, the president and Pelosi could not agree on the words the president used to insult her.
It remains to be seen whether the president will directly address the impeachment "hoax," as he calls it, or whether the arguably most powerful person on earth might just allude to what he sees as the deck being stacked against him. A senior administration official declined to tell reporters in a briefing last week whether the president will bring up impeachment in his scripted, vetted speech. Staunch Trump defender and Senate trial juror Lindsey Graham told reporters last week he hoped the president wouldn't bring up impeachment in his speech.
Bill Clinton, who kept an outward focus on pushing national policy forward, without the distraction of Twitter messages suggesting anything to the contrary, did not address his impeachment in his 1999 State of the Union address.
So, what will Mr. Trump say in his State of the Union speech?
The White House says the president's tone will be one of optimism — that Mr. Trump will deliver the message that the state of the nation is better than ever. The senior administration official who briefed reporters said the theme of the president's speech is the "Great American Comeback," offering the country a "vision of relentless optimism" by celebrating the nation's economic and military strength. That will include talking up blue-collar successes, the China trade deal and U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. He'll also emphasize claims that his administration is working to lower the cost of health care and prescription drugs. He's expected to bring up more controversial matters too, like sanctuary cities and his administration's crackdown on illegal immigrants.
The president has some data to back up his economic message. The unemployment rate is historically low, although the workforce participation rate is still struggling. Drug overdose deaths dropped for the first time in two years, a bright spot for a country that has seen the opioid epidemic destroy families and ravage communities. The president also has the deaths of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Islamic military general Qasem Soleimani to tout, although military readiness issues such as old equipment continue to plague the country's military branches, according to the Government Accountability Office. Reflecting the president's rhetorical emphasis on the military, one of his guests will be Army veteran Tony Rankins.
Mr. Trump has delivered messages of optimism in previous addresses, also during times of enormous tension on Capitol Hill. But those messages of unity have never lingered long after he steps out of the House chamber.
"The Democrats in Congress yesterday were vicious and totally showed their cards for everyone to see," the president tweeted four days after his State of the Union address last year, his first such address after Republicans lost the House. "When the Republicans had the Majority they never acted with such hatred and scorn! The Dems are trying to win an election in 2020 that they know they cannot legitimately win!"
The president's State of the Union address begins at 8 p.m. Tuesday.