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Trump hits back at Democrat rival ahead of State of the Union

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer accused Donald Trump of ‘blatant hypocrisy’.


Donald Trump has been in a Twitter row with Chuck Schumer ahead of the president’s State of the Union address (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Donald Trump has been in a Twitter row with Chuck Schumer ahead of the president’s State of the Union address (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

US President Donald Trump has criticised a prominent Democrat on Twitter ahead of his State of the Union address.

Mr Trump lashed out at Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer after he accused the president of “blatant hypocrisy” during a speech.

Mr Schumer said on the Senate floor that the president talks about unity in his annual addresses to the nation but “spends the other 364 days of the year dividing us”.

Minutes later, Mr Trump tweeted that Mr Schumer hadn’t even seen the speech and was “just upset that he didn’t win the Senate, after spending a fortune”.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders indicated the president would highlight what he sees as achievements and downplay discord.

“You’re going to continue see the president push for policies that help continue the economic boom,” Ms Sanders said on Monday night while appearing on Hannity on Fox News.

“You’re also going to see the president call on Congress and say, ‘Look, we can either work together and get great things done or we can fight each other and get nothing done.’ And frankly, the American people deserve better than that.”

But Washington’s most recent debate offered few signs of co-operation between Mr Trump and Democrats. Under pressure from conservative backers, Mr Trump refused to sign a government funding bill that did not include money for his long-sought border wall.

With hundreds of thousands of Americans going unpaid, Mr Trump ultimately agreed to re-open the government for three weeks to allow negotiations on border security to continue.

With the new February 15 funding deadline looming, Mr Trump is expected to use his address to outline his demands, which still include funding for a wall along the US-Mexico border.

You’ll hear the State of the Union, and then you’ll see what happens right after the State of the Union
Donald Trump

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He has teased the possibility of declaring a national emergency to secure wall funding if Congress does not act, though it appeared unlikely he would take that step on Tuesday night. Advisers have also been reviewing options to secure some funding without making such a declaration.

“You’ll hear the State of the Union, and then you’ll see what happens right after the State of the Union,” Mr Trump told reporters.

Republican senator John Cornyn said he remains hopeful Congress can resolve the dispute.

“Democrats can call it a fence, the president can call it a wall and then we can call it a day, which I think is one way of skinning the cat,” said Mr Cornyn, who is a close adviser to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.

The president’s address marks the first time he is speaking before a Congress that is not fully under Republican control.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who won plaudits from Democrats for her hardline negotiating tactics during the shutdown, will be seated behind the president — a visual reminder of Mr Trump’s political opposition.

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will sit behind the president during the address (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

In a letter on Monday night to House Democrats, Ms Pelosi wrote that she hopes “we will hear a commitment from the President on issues that have bipartisan support in the Congress and the Country, such as lowering the price of prescription drugs and rebuilding America’s infrastructure”.

In the audience will be several Democrats running to challenge Mr Trump in 2020, including senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Another Democratic star, Stacey Abrams, will deliver the party’s response to Mr Trump. Ms Abrams narrowly lost her bid in November to become Georgia’s first black governor, and party leaders are aggressively recruiting her to run for Senate.

Mr Schumer earlier previewed Democrats’ message for countering Mr Trump, declaring on Monday: “The number one reason the state of the union has such woes is the president.”

While Mr Trump was still putting the final touches on the speech on Tuesday, he was expected to use some of his televised address to showcase a growing economy.

Despite the shutdown, the US economy added a robust 304,000 jobs in January, marking 100 straight months of job growth. That is the longest period on record.

Mr Trump and his top aides have also hinted that he is likely to use the address to announce a major milestone in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria. Despite the objections of some advisers, Mr Trump announced in December that he was withdrawing US forces in Syria.

Press Association

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