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Trump boasts of 'Great American comeback' in State of the Union
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President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., left, and Vice President Mike Pence watch. (Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

WASHINGTON — Standing before a Congress and nation sharply divided by impeachment, President Donald Trump used his State of the Union address Tuesday to extol a “Great American comeback” on his watch, three years after he took office decrying a land of “American carnage” under his predecessor.

The first president to run for reelection after being impeached, Trump received a raucous but divided response from Congress with Republicans in the House of Representatives chanting “Four more years” while Democrats stood mute.

“America’s enemies are on the run, America’s fortunes are on the rise and America’s future is blazing bright,” Trump declared. “In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American decline and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny. We are moving forward at a pace that was unimaginable just a short time ago, and we are never going back!”

Trump offered the nation’s economic success as a chief rationale for a second term.

Trump spent much of the speech highlighting the economy’s strength, including low unemployment, stressing how it has helped blue-collar workers and the middle class. 

Economic growth was 2.3% in 2019, matching the average pace since the Great Recession ended a decade ago in the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency

Trump stressed the new trade agreements he has negotiated, including his phase-one deal with China and the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement he signed last month.

Trump spoke from the House of Representatives, on the opposite side of the Capitol from where the Senate on Wednesday is expected to acquit him largely along party lines. 

Yet the partisan divide within Washington was embodied by the woman over his left shoulder, visible in nearly every camera shot: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

A frequent thorn in Trump’s side who authorized the impeachment proceedings, Pelosi created a viral image with her seemingly sarcastic applause of the president a year ago.

Trump appeared no more cordial. When he climbed to the House rostrum, he did not take her outstretched hand but it was not clear he had seen her gesture. Later, as Republicans often cheered, she remained in her seat, at times shaking her head at Trump’s remarks. 

The leading Senate Democrats hoping to unseat him in November were campaigning in New Hampshire.

In advance of his address, Trump tweeted that the chaos in Iowa’s Monday leadoff caucuses showed Democrats were incompetent and should not be trusted to run the government.

Among Trump’s guests in the chamber: Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has been trying for months to win face time with Trump, his most important international ally.

The president offered Guaidó exactly the sort of endorsement he’s been looking for as he struggles to oust President Nicolás Maduro from power. Trump called Guaidó “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela.”

Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, during the address.

Limbaugh, 69, a staunch supporter of Trump, announced Monday he is battling advanced lung cancer.

Trump also dedicated a section to “American values,” discussing efforts to protect “religious liberties” and limit access to abortion as he continues to court the evangelical and conservative Christian voters who form a crucial part of his base.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was delivering the party’s official response and, in excerpts released ahead of the speech, was to draw a contrast between actions taken by Democrats and the president’s rhetoric.

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