10:32 — More chants of “USA!” Just seconds after the speech, the Democratic side looked half empty. They couldn’t wait to get out of the chamber. A tough night for the Democrats — Trump looking presidential.
10:31 — The big finish: “Americans fill the world with art and music. They push the bounds of science and discovery. And they forever remind us of what we should never forget: The people dreamed this country. The people built this country. And it’s the people who are making America great again.
“As long as we are proud of who we are, and what we are fighting for, there is nothing we cannot achieve. As long as we have confidence in our values, faith in our citizens, and trust in our God, we will not fail. Our families will thrive. Our people will prosper. And our Nation will forever be safe and strong and proud and mighty and free.”
10:29 — Trump gets poetic about America and freedom. The crowd chants “USA!”
“And freedom stands tall over one more monument: this one. This Capitol. This living monument to the American people. We’re a people whose heroes live not only in the past, but all around us — defending hope, pride, and the American way. They work in every trade. They sacrifice to raise a family. They care for our children at home. They defend our flag abroad. And they are strong moms and brave kids. They are firefighters, police officers, border agents, medics, and Marines.
“But above all else, they are Americans. And this Capitol, this city, and this Nation, belongs entirely to them. Our task is to respect them, to listen to them, to serve them, to protect them, and to always be worthy of them.”
10:25 — Picture of the night: Seong-ho waving his crutches. Trump told this story: “Finally, we are joined by one more witness to the ominous nature of this regime. His name is Mr. Ji Seong-ho.
“In 1996, Seong-ho was a starving boy in North Korea. One day, he tried to steal coal from a railroad car to barter for a few scraps of food. In the process, he passed out on the train tracks, exhausted from hunger. He woke up as a train ran over his limbs. He then endured multiple amputations without anything to dull the pain. His brother and sister gave what little food they had to help him recover and ate dirt themselves — permanently stunting their own growth. Later, he was tortured by North Korean authorities after returning from a brief visit to China. His tormentors wanted to know if he had met any Christians. He had — and he resolved to be free.
“Seong-ho traveled thousands of miles on crutches across China and Southeast Asia to freedom. Most of his family followed. His father was caught trying to escape, and was tortured to death. Today he lives in Seoul, where he rescues other defectors, and broadcasts into North Korea what the regime fears the most ‑- the truth.
Today he has a new leg, but Seong-ho, I understand you still keep those crutches as a reminder of how far you have come. Your great sacrifice is an inspiration to us all.” The man, with tears streaming down his cheeks, stood and waved the crutches.
10:22 — More tears as Trump recounts the story of Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student brutally beaten in North Korea. “Tonight, we pledge to honor Otto’s memory with American resolve.”
10:20 — Trump wields the big stick on North Korea. “Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation. I will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations that got us into this very dangerous position.”
10:19 — Another weird one. “America stands with the people of Iran in their courageous struggle for freedom,” Trump says. Only half the Democrats cheer that line. The rest sit.
10:17 — Trump moves on to Jerusalem. “Last month, I also took an action endorsed unanimously by the Senate just months before: I recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. [Huge cheer — from half the chamber.] Shortly afterwards, dozens of countries voted in the United Nations General Assembly against America’s sovereign right to make this decision. In 2016, American taxpayers generously sent those same countries more than $20 billion in aid . That is why, tonight, I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to help ensure American foreign-assistance dollars always serve American interests, and only go to friends of America, not enemies of America.” Democrats sit on their hands.
10:13 — Trump veers away from Obama’s dangerous plan to close Guantanamo Bay. “In the past, we have foolishly released hundreds and hundreds of dangerous terrorists, only to meet them again on the battlefield — including the ISIS leader, al-Baghdadi, who we captured, who we had, who we released. So today, I am keeping another promise. I just signed an order, prior to walking out, directing Secretary Mattis — who is doing a great job, thank you — to reexamine our military detention policy and to keep open the detention facilities in Guantánamo Bay.”
10:09 — Trump takes credit for defeating ISIS. “One year later, I am proud to report that the coalition to defeat ISIS has liberated almost 100 percent of the territory once held by these killers in Iraq and Syria. But there is much more work to be done. We will continue our fight until ISIS is defeated.” Wait, you just said…. Nevermind.
10:07 — Overseas we go. ” Around the world, we face rogue regimes, terrorist groups, and rivals like China and Russia that challenge our interests, our economy, and our values. In confronting these horrible dangers, we know that weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unmatched power is the surest means to our true and great defense. For this reason, I am asking the Congress to end the dangerous defense sequester and fully fund our great military.”
Republicans burst out of their chairs on that line. Democrats, no.
10:04 — We have a long way to go in this speech people. Go get some popcorn. Trump’s moved on to opioid addiction. And we still haven’t traveled overseas. That’ll take a while.
10:03 — “Most importantly, these four pillars will produce legislation that fulfills my ironclad pledge to only sign a bill that puts America first. So let’s come together, set politics aside, and finally get the job done.”
10:02 — Trump delivers a challenge to Democrats. “For over 30 years, Washington has tried and failed to solve this problem. This Congress can be the one that finally makes it happen.”
9:59 — Then Trump lays out the plan: “The first pillar of our framework generously offers a path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants who were brought here by their parents at a young age — that covers almost three times more people than the previous administration. Under our plan, those who meet education and work requirements, and show good moral character, will be able to become full citizens of the United States over a 12-year period.
“The second pillar fully secures the border. That means building a great wall on the Southern border, and it means hiring more heroes like CJ to keep our communities safe. Crucially, our plan closes the terrible loopholes exploited by criminals and terrorists to enter our country — and it finally ends the horrible and dangerous practice of ‘catch and release.’
“The third pillar ends the visa lottery — a program that randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of American people. It’s time to begin moving towards a merit-based immigration system — one that admits people who are skilled, who want to work, who will contribute to our society, and who will love and respect our country.
“The fourth and final pillar protects the nuclear family by ending chain migration. Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives. [Big groans here, presumably from Democrats.] Under our plan, we focus on the immediate family by limiting sponsorships to spouses and minor children. This vital reform is necessary, not just for our economy, but for our security, and our future.”
9:57 — Trump says he’s offered an immigration plan, “one where nobody gets everything they want, but where our country gets the critical reforms it needs and must have.”
9:53 — The line of the night: “Americans are dreamers too.”
9:52 — Trump again reaches across the aisle. “So tonight, I am extending an open hand to work with members of both parties — Democrats and Republicans — to protect our citizens of every background, color, religion, and creed. My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans, to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American Dream. Because Americans are dreamers too.”
9:51 — “Tonight, I am calling on the Congress to finally close the deadly loopholes that have allowed MS-13, and other criminals, to break into our country. We have proposed new legislation that will fix our immigration laws, and support our ICE and Border Patrol Agents … so that this cannot ever happen again.” The Democrats don’t budge. No applause.
9:50 — The first tears of the night. “Here tonight are two fathers and two mothers: Evelyn Rodriguez, Freddy Cuevas, Elizabeth Alvarado, and Robert Mickens. Their two teenage daughters — Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens — were close friends on Long Island. But in September 2016, on the eve of Nisa’s 16th Birthday, neither of them came home. These two precious girls were brutally murdered while walking together in their hometown. Six members of the savage gang MS-13 have been charged with Kayla and Nisa’s murders. Many of these gang members took advantage of glaring loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors ‑- and wound up in Kayla and Nisa’s high school. Evelyn, Elizabeth, Freddy, and Robert: Tonight, everyone in this chamber is praying for you. Everyone in America is grieving for you.”
9:49 — Groans heard as Trump starts in on immigration. “Struggling communities, especially immigrant communities, will also be helped by immigration policies that focus on the best interests of American workers and American families. For decades, open borders have allowed drugs and gangs to pour into our most vulnerable communities. They have allowed millions of low-wage workers to compete for jobs and wages against the poorest Americans. Most tragically, they have caused the loss of many innocent lives.”
9:48 — “And let’s support working families by supporting paid family leave.” Trump, smiling, gestures to the Democrats — who must’ve stood for that line.
9:47 — Trump goes big. “We want every American to know the dignity of a hard day’s work. We want every child to be safe in their home at night. And we want every citizen to be proud of this land that we all love so much. We can lift our citizens from welfare to work, from dependence to independence, and from poverty to prosperity.” (Cut to Sen. Bernie Sanders clapping tepidly.)
9:46 — “Tonight, I am calling on the Congress to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment we need.”
9:45 — Wow, another quick cut to the Democrats. They look miserable.
9:44 — Trump says it’s “also time to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.” Big cheers and applause. “America is a nation of builders. We built the Empire State Building in just 1 year — isn’t not a disgrace that it can now take 10 years just to get a minor permit approved for the building of a simple road? I am asking both parties to come together to give us safe, fast, reliable, and modern infrastructure that our economy needs and our people deserve.”
9:42 — Trump announces a new initiative. “One of my greatest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs. In many other countries, these drugs cost far less than what we pay in the United States and it’s very, very unfair. That is why I have directed my administration to make fixing the injustice of high drug prices one of our top priorities for the year. Prices will come down substantially. Watch.”
9:38 — “Many car companies are now building and expanding plants in the United States — something we have not seen for decades. Chrysler is moving a major plant from Mexico to Michigan; Toyota and Mazda are opening up a plant in Alabama. Soon, plants will be opening up all over the country. This is all news Americans are totally unaccustomed to hearing — for many years, companies and jobs were only leaving us. But now they are roaring coming back…. They want to be in the United States of America.”
9:35 — A Fox shot of the Democrats show several looking at their phones, chatting with each other. Trump mentions loving the vets, and a few Democrats felt obliged to stand for that one.
9:33 — Trump praises the Supreme Court, but there are only three justices and the chief justice in attendance. Rude.
9:32 — OK, this one’s great. Trump says “we proudly stand for the national anthem.” Republicans stand. Democrats sit. So petty.
9:30 — Trump hits the flag, faith, and says “The motto is, ‘In God we trust.’ ” He rounds it out with support for police and the military. And puppies. No, not puppies.
9:29 — “Tonight, I want to talk about what kind of future we are going to have, and what kind of nation we are going to be. All of us, together, as one team, one people, and one American family can do anything.”
9:26 — “Since we passed tax cuts, roughly 3 million workers have already gotten tax cut bonuses – many of them thousands of dollars per worker.” Democrats didn’t applaud that, either. They seem sullen that Americans are getting some of their money back.
9:23 — Another huge cheer as Trump says he’s dismantling Obamacare. “We repealed the core of disastrous Obamacare — the individual mandate is now gone.” Fox cuts to Pelosi, who leans over to whisper something to her neighbor. Bet that one was spicy!
9:22 — The Democrats aren’t applauding at all for the huge tax cuts. “Our massive tax cuts provide tremendous relief for the middle class and small businesses.”
9:20 — Trump touts the rising American economy, the creation of 2.4 million jobs, the strong stock market. “Just as I promised the American People from this podium 11 months ago, we enacted the biggest tax cuts and reform in American history.” Huge cheer. Well, from the Republicans, anyway.
9:19 — A slight dig at his predecessor, Barack Obama. “After years and years of wage stagnation, we are finally seeing rising wages.”
9:18 — “The state of our union is strong because our people are strong.”
9:17 — Trump makes a call for more bipartisanship. “These are the people we were elected to serve.” Quick shot to Rep. Nancy Pelosi, looking sour and stern, not clapping.
9:16 — Huge cheers as Trump introduces Rep. Steve Scalise, badly wounded in a shooting during a practice for a congressional baseball game. “I think they like you, Steve.”
9:15 — Trump speaking in a slow, measured pace, not doing his usual ad libbing but rather reading strictly from the teleprompter as he recounts the many natural disasters that the United States endured during his first year in office and introducing some of the guests in his box.
9:12 — Trump says his administration has embarked on a “righteous mission to make America great again.” Big cheer.
9:10 — More huge cheers for Trump as Speaker Paul Ryan introduced him.
9:05 — “Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States!” Huge cheers. Nobody does the point ‘n’ wave like Trump.
9:01 — In comes the Trump Cabinet. Lots of handshaking. BTW, we were watching on CNN but it got too tedious so we’ve switched over to Fox.
8:59: — Huge cheers as Melania Trump walks down to her box in the Capitol, resplendent in a white pantsuit.
8:58 p.m. — Two-minute warning, people! Two minutes!