President Donald Trump gave his postponed State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday, laying out policy initiatives for the next year. Familiar topics, including his efforts to secure funding for a border wall, were centerpieces of the 82-minute speech, but new initiatives, such as plans to meet again with the North Korean leader and to tackle the spread of HIV, were also highlighted.
Here are some of the major takeaways from the address.
He’s still going after his wall, but it’s now a “see-through steel barrier.”
Trump hasn’t backed down from his demand for a wall along America’s southern border, but his definition of it has continued to evolve this year amid the fallout from a 35-day partial government shutdown, a closure that led to a one-week delay of the State of the Union address.
“This is a smart, strategic, see-through steel barrier ― not just a simple concrete wall,” the president declared Tuesday. “It will be deployed in the areas identified by border agents as having the greatest need, and as these agents will tell you, where walls go up, illegal crossings go way, way down.”
He added that “walls work” and “save lives,” and urged lawmakers to forge a compromise that will “truly make America safe.” Democrats have long called for beefed-up border security, including new technology and more border agents, but have said a simple barrier would be costly and ineffective.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has continued to insist that there will be no “wall money” as part of a funding deal for the federal government, although she said she’s open to earmarking money for other border security efforts.
He keeps mischaracterizing migrant “caravans” seeking asylum.
The president spent weeks before last year’s midterm elections sounding an alarm over a large caravan of Central American migrants, painting the migrants as criminals in an attempt to build fears and garner support for his proposed wall. Many of those people were fleeing violence, hoping to apply for asylum at the U.S. border.
Trump on Tuesday once again moved to paint a new caravan of about 1,600 people as a danger to American society, saying that, “as we speak, large, organized caravans are on the march to the United States.”
“We have just heard that Mexican cities, in order to remove the illegal immigrants from their communities, are getting trucks and buses to bring them up to our country in areas where there is little border protection,” he said, pointing to his order to send an additional 3,750 troops to the border this week.
“This is a moral issue,” he continued. “The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security and financial well‑being of all Americans.”
Trump will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for the second time.
The president has long touted his efforts to rein in North Korea’s nuclear weapon program, and Trump said he would meet with the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, for a second time later this month in Vietnam.
“As part of a bold new diplomacy, we continue our historic push for peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Trump said. “Our hostages have come home, nuclear testing has stopped and there has not been a missile launch in 15 months. If I had not been elected President of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea with potentially millions of people killed.”
The meeting is scheduled to take place on Feb. 27 and 28, although critics have expressed skepticism about what progress can be made. Pyongyang has yet to give up any of the weaponry Trump has said it would, and American intelligence chiefs said last month that North Korea was “unlikely to give up all of its [nuclear] stockpiles.”
He’s fearmongering over late-term abortions.
Trump has seized control of the anti-abortion talking point ahead of the 2020 election and urged Congress to “defend the dignity of every person” during his State of the Union speech.
“I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb,” the president said. “Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life. And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: All children ― born and unborn ― are made in the holy image of God.”
The focus on such abortions comes after New York passed a new law last month that permits the termination of pregnancies after the 24th week only in the “absence of fetal viability” or if the “abortion is necessary to protect” a mother’s life or health. Such abortions are rare, amounting to 1.3 percent of total procedures in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Abortion rights advocates have lambasted Trump’s imagery and characterizations of the law as absurd.
He wants to “eliminate the HIV epidemic.”
The president said he planned to implement a 10-year strategy to reduce and possibly end the spread of HIV infections in the United States, even though his administration has been criticized for its work on the issue so far.
“In recent years, we have made remarkable progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS,” Trump said. “Scientific breakthroughs have brought a once-distant dream within reach. My budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years. Together, we will defeat AIDS in America.”
Though the move would amount to a major American policy initiative, the Trump administration has been criticized for leaving major HIV leadership positions unfilled for months. Vice President Mike Pence has also been criticized for his policies while he was governor of Indiana, where he oversaw cuts to public health funding that contributed to the worst HIV outbreak in the state’s history.
He’s doubling down on fossil fuel production.
Trump has long touted America’s renewed interest in fossil fuel production as a boon to the economy, despite increasingly dire reports from the world’s leading scientists about the scourge of climate change.
“We have unleashed a revolution in American energy ― the United States is now the No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas in the world,” the president said. “And now, for the first time in 65 years, we are a net exporter of energy.”