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President Trump Expected To Address Divisive Issues In SOTU Speech


The White House has released excerpts of President Trump's first State of the Union address, which he'll deliver an hour from now. Many public radio stations will carry live coverage of the speech and the Democratic response, including fact checking and analysis. Now, excerpts often don't indicate exactly where a speech is going, but they do at least give a selective preview. So to run through it, we are joined now by NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Hi, Tam.


SHAPIRO: We've been hearing from the White House for a few days that this is going to be an optimistic and forward-looking speech. What does that mean exactly?

KEITH: Well, on the optimism front, there is going to be a lot of talk about the state of the U.S. economy. And President Trump, as he's been doing, has been really talking up the economy. And here's one excerpt on the forward-looking part and sort of the bipartisan spirit that he wants to have in this speech. Quote, "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."

SHAPIRO: One team, one people, one American family does not sound like the political year we just had in 2017.


KEITH: No, it does not sound like that at all. And I should just say that last February, President Trump also gave a speech to a joint address - to a joint session of Congress. It wasn't technically a State of the Union, but he talked then about unity and bipartisanship. And then, you're right. Last year was a year where Republicans and President Trump did as much as they possibly could on a policy front with Republican votes alone, including passing at the end of the year that tax bill - that very big tax bill that is going to feature prominently in tonight's speech. And that was passed with Republican votes alone.

SHAPIRO: What kinds of policies is he going to talk about tonight beyond the tax bill?

KEITH: Well, he is going to pitch both infrastructure and immigration as areas with potential for bipartisan compromise. Notably he made that same pitch last year, though he'll probably use different words this year. And we are still waiting to see any real details on the infrastructure proposal. And Democrats have been highly skeptical that they could get on board.

SHAPIRO: While there hasn't been a lot of detail on the infrastructure proposal, there's been a lot of debate over immigration. How is he going to move the ball forward on that?

KEITH: Yeah, so the clock is ticking on the DACA program because President Trump has set it to expire in early March. That's the program that gives a reprieve from deportation to people who were brought to the country as children who are now here illegally. The president is going to talk about a proposal that the administration rolled out late last week that would potentially have a path for citizenship for 1.8 million people who are eligible for that DACA program. But he also wants $25 billion of wall funding and a complete rethinking of the legal immigration system in the U.S.

SHAPIRO: Pull back the curtain a bit. How did the speech come together?

KEITH: So the president has been involved, officials say - very involved. There are a number of speechwriters and others providing input, but the president at night has apparently been taking drafts up to the residence and using his big, black marker or felt-tip pen to mark it up. And at times he's had ideas, he's called the speechwriters to dictate particular lines.

SHAPIRO: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith on this State of the Union night, thanks for joining us.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.