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Trump discusses border wall, abortion bill in State of the Union address

<p>Donald Trump&nbsp;(pictured here in Raleigh)&nbsp;was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States Friday morning.</p>

Donald Trump (pictured here in Raleigh) was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States Friday morning.

With another potential government shutdown looming as Democrats and Republicans clash over President Donald Trump’s demand for border wall funding, Trump called for unity in the State of the Union address. 

“The decision is ours to make. We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction,” Trump said. “Tonight, I ask you to choose greatness.”

The speech was slated to take place Jan. 29, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would not host Trump's speech on the House floor during the 35-day government shutdown over border wall funding. The bill to finance the government that Trump signed Jan. 25—without any wall funding—reopened the government for three weeks, giving the federal government until Feb. 15 to avoid another shutdown. 

Top Democrats have refused to sign any spending bill that contains funding for a wall. In December, Trump said he would be “proud” to shut down the government in order to get funding for a wall. 

Now is the time for bipartisan cooperation, Trump said in the State of the Union, pointing to recent bipartisan efforts that included some of the most significant changes to prison and sentencing laws "in a generation” and measures to fight the opioid epidemic. 

Likely in reference to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, Trump blamed “ridiculous partisan investigations” for division. 

“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” Trump said. “It just does not work that way.”

Trump: Border wall a ‘moral issue’

Trump pitched his border wall and argued it was a moral issue, citing drugs and gang members crossing the border among other factors. He said that one in three migrant women are sexually assaulted on the way to the United States—a claim PolitiFact has rated "half true." 

“The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security and financial well-being of all America,” Trump said. 

Trump added that he sent a “common sense” package to Congress that would end the border “crisis,” which included humanitarian assistance, more law enforcement, stronger drug detection at ports, elimination of loopholes that enable child smuggling and construction of a border wall. 

“Walls work and walls save lives,” Trump said. “So let’s work together, compromise and reach a deal that will truly make America safe.” 

Trump notably did not use the platform to call for a national emergency to build a border wall without Congressional approval, which he has threatened to do. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reportedly warned him that doing so would "almost certainly spark a rebellion within his party—and a vote to overrule him.”

In a pre-rebuttal speech, presidential candidate and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said that Trump’s anticipated calls for unity were “insincere.” 

“We're in store not for a speech that will seek to draw us together as Americans, but one that seeks to score political points by driving us apart,” Harris said

Harris also railed against Trump’s demand for a wall. 

“When you hear claims that our problems would all be solved if we just built a wall on our southern border, don’t forget the babies, ripped from their parents’ arms,” Harris said.

Trump responds to controversial abortion bill 

In response to a proposed Virginia bill that would ease access to third-trimester abortions, Trump asked Congress to “prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother's womb.” 

Trump cited Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s comments, in which Trump claimed he advocated for “execut[ing] a baby after birth.” 

"So in this particular example, if a mother's in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen," Northam said Wednesday. "The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if that's what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother."

The Virginia bill would allow third-trimester abortions with the approval of one doctor, not three as currently is written into law. 

Trump pledges to end HIV epidemic by 2030, touts economic growth

By targeting communities hit hardest by HIV, Trump hopes to stop new HIV infections by 2030. 

According to estimates from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 million people in the United States have HIV. The Trump administration's health officials would spend five years working in 20 of the states hit hardest by HIV, according to POLITICO

“Together, we will defeat AIDS in America,” Trump said. “And beyond.”

Trump was also optimistic about the country’s economic prospects, claiming that his administration added 5.3 million jobs, though Bureau of Labor statistics indicate the real number is 4.9 million. 

“In just over two years since the election, we have launched an unprecedented economic boom, a boom that has rarely been seen before,” Trump said. “There has been nothing like it.”

Ben Leonard

Managing Editor 2018-19, 2019-2020 Features & Investigations Editor 

A member of the class of 2020 hailing from San Mateo, Calif., Ben is The Chronicle's Towerview Editor and Investigations Editor. Outside of the Chronicle, he is a public policy major working towards a journalism certificate, has interned at the Tampa Bay Times and NBC News and frequents Pitchforks. 


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