President Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union speech tonight, addressing the nation at a time when the Russia investigation is dominating the news.
As expected, Trump touted the job growth since the election, noting the country has created 2.4 million jobs since last November — though three of those months were during the term of his predecessor, President Barack Obama. He also highlighted the fact that unemployment is at an all-time low for African-Americans and Latinos.
"Small business confidence is at an all-time high," Trump continued. "The stock market has smashed one record after another, gaining eight trillion dollars and more in value in just this short period of time."
The recently passed tax overhaul, which slashed the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, was a key theme in the president's speech. Trump praised the new law for providing "tremendous relief for the middle class and small business," though the non-partisan estimates that millions of households will see a tax increase in a decade. And, he applauded the end of the ObamaCare mandate, a tax people had to pay if they didn't buy health insurance.
The speech came against the backdrop of reports that Trump tried to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller in June, but that White House Counsel Don McGahn stopped him by threatening to quit. The relationship between the White House and law enforcement has devolved in recent weeks, as the president has stepped up attacks on the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department as the Russia investigation moves forward. The bureau's deputy director, Andrew McCabe, stepped down yesterday amid accusations he had a conflict of interest because his wife took campaign cash from a Clinton ally when she ran for the Virginia State Senate in 2015. The same day, House Republicans on the Intelligence Committee voted to release a classified memo alleging surveillance abuses at the FBI.
The president did not address the controversy in the speech, but instead struck a conciliatory tone. "Tonight, I call upon on all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people," he said. "This is really the key. These are the people we were elected to serve."
"This administration is not just targeting the laws that protect us, they are targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection," he said. "For them, dignity is not something you are born with, but something you measure by your net worth, your celebrity, your headlines, your crowd size."
After a bruising fight in Congress that eventually led to a government shut down, Kennedy took the opportunity to send a message to the roughly 800,000 DREAMers, the undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children and were protected from deportation under the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. In September, Trump announced he would phase out the program, giving Congress a six-month window to create a permanent solution.
"To all the DREAMers watching tonight, let me be absolutely clear," Kennedy said. "You are part of our story. We will fight for you, and we will not walk away."
The fate of the DREAMers is now tied to whether lawmakers can come up with a compromise by Feb. 8 over how to fund the government. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to take up the issue to end the three-day shutdown, but it's unclear whether the Democrats have the leverage to push through a bill that includes protections for DREAMers.
During his State of the Union speech, Trump called on Congress to create a path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants, including the DREAMers. He also pushed for funding the border wall, ending the visa lottery program and stopping so-called chain migration, the process by which immigrants already in the U.S. can bring in their family members.
This story has been updated.