Surreal will be the word of the evening as President Trump marches into the same House chamber where he was impeached just seven weeks ago to address the nation even as he is on trial for high crimes and misdemeanors on the other side of the Capitol.
The president’s annual address on Tuesday comes after two weeks of arguments on the Senate floor about whether he should be removed from office and a day before a scheduled final vote. With acquittal virtually assured, Mr. Trump will use his speech to set the terms for the remainder of the year as he heads toward the November election in search of a second term.
What we’re expecting to see: Mr. Trump will deliver his third State of the Union address and his fourth speech to a joint session of Congress in the House chamber.
When we’re likely to see it: The speech will begin around 9 p.m. Eastern and will be followed by responses by two Democrats, one in English and one in Spanish.
How to follow it: The New York Times’s White House and congressional teams will be following all of the developments of the day around Washington and providing real-time analysis during the speech. Visit nytimes.com for coverage throughout the day and a live stream of the address in the evening.
[Read more about the guests at Trump’s 2020 State of the Union.]
While tempted to show up at his Senate trial to defend himself, Mr. Trump deferred to lawyers and advisers who warned against it. But in effect, the defendant will now appear in the Capitol in a different format to offer the best case for his presidency, all without having to worry about cross-examination.
Many inside and outside the chamber will be watching to see how or if he directly addresses the constitutional showdown that has been playing out for months. Mr. Trump had hoped to have the trial behind him by now so he could use the nationally televised appearance as a show of victory, but senators delayed a final vote until Wednesday to give speeches explaining their decisions.
As a result, during the day on Tuesday, senators will rise one after another on their side of the Capitol to announce whether they support conviction or acquittal on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress stemming from Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to help him tarnish Democratic rivals. Then, after dark, the same president they are judging will make his way down the House aisle, shaking hands with lawmakers and laying out his agenda for the year.
If Mr. Trump does address the trial in his speech, it may be less bombastic than his usual fare. While he has been outspoken denouncing what he calls a “hoax” and “witch hunt” against him, the president traditionally has been more measured and less confrontational during his State of the Union addresses, carefully following the texts prepared for him.
He will not be the first president to deliver his State of the Union address in the middle of a Senate impeachment trial. President Bill Clinton gave his annual message to Congress while being tried on perjury and obstruction of justice charges stemming from a sexual harassment lawsuit, but he made a point of not saying a word about it during the speech.
Mr. Trump will use the speech and the biggest television audience he will have all year to frame the re-election campaign ahead of him, asserting that he has rebuilt the United States and accusing his Democratic opponents of favoring socialist policies that will reverse the progress.
White House officials said the theme of the speech will be “the great American comeback,” highlighting his record on the economy, increased military spending and the appointment of conservative judges. The president will talk about future priorities like lowering health care costs, giving parents more choice in schools, undercutting so-called sanctuary cities that protect illegal immigrants and cutting taxes further.
The economy has been Mr. Trump’s strongest political selling point in polls, with unemployment at 3.5 percent, the lowest it has been in more than a half-century, and markets far higher than when he took office. But growth slowed in the last quarter to 2.1 percent, half as much as Mr. Trump promised, manufacturing is in recession and investors are worried that the suspension of travel to China because of the coronavirus outbreak could take a toll on the economy.
Mr. Trump, who opened his presidency with a dystopian depiction of “American carnage,” will take a more positive, upbeat approach on Tuesday night, according to aides, who said “optimistic” would be the right adjective to summarize the address.
To respond to the president, the Democrats chose one of their party’s rising stars straight from a presidential battleground. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, who won her office in 2018 with a convincing 10-point victory over Mr. Trump’s favored candidate in a state he won in 2016, presents what party leaders consider the archetype for a successful candidate in the Trump era.
Rather than focusing on the president’s Twitter feed, she has positioned herself as a get-things-done pragmatist who will work with Republicans on bread-and-butter issues like lowering the cost of prescription drugs, improving the economy for those left behind, expanding Medicaid coverage and “fixing the damn roads,” as she puts it.
But she has chided Mr. Trump for his divisiveness even without naming him. “Unfortunately, we’ve also seen an uptick in hateful, harmful language in Michigan and across the country,” she said in her State of the State speech. “A lot of it starts in Washington, D.C., and now it feels like it’s working its way to Lansing.”
To deliver the party’s Spanish-language response to the State of the Union address, Democratic leaders picked Representative Veronica Escobar of Texas, who declined to join Mr. Trump when he visited El Paso last August after a mass shooting by a gunman warning of a “Hispanic invasion.” Ms. Escobar faulted Mr. Trump for his anti-immigrant language, saying he should “acknowledge the power of his words, apologize for them and take them back.”