Will Trump keep his 2019 State of the Union promises? He didn’t keep many from last year
If U.S. President Donald Trump‘s State of the Union address on Tuesday is anything like his last one, it will be largely impossible to tell which of his major promises he’ll keep and which ones he’ll completely turn upside down.
Instead, he shut down the government in a failed gambit to secure funding for his border wall, claimed he “fell in love” with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un after their historic summit in June and declared victory over ISIS, contradicting his own intelligence agencies’ assessments that the terror group was still very much intact.
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However, Trump also followed up on complaints about the Iran deal by withdrawing from it altogether, and escalated several trade disputes after promising to get a “better deal” for the United States.
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Here’s how Trump said he would change the world in his 2018 State of the Union address – and how he actually changed it.
Finding common ground and addressing immigration
Trump used his last State of the Union speech to call for Democrats and Republicans to work together on passing important legislation for the country, including immigration reform.
“I call upon 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 we were elected to serve,” he said. Trump also said he would offer a path to citizenship for those who came to the country as illegal child immigrants – commonly known as “Dreamers” – in exchange for support for his border wall.
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The president did not wait long before attacking his Democratic opponents in the days following his speech. He told supporters at a rally that Democrats who failed to give him a standing ovation were “un-American” and “treasonous.”
“Somebody said treasonous. Yeah, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason?” he said at a rally in Ohio on Feb. 5, 2018. “Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”
There are countless examples of the divisions in Washington, but perhaps none more fresh than the 35-day government shutdown that Trump triggered over funding for his border wall. The president ultimately ended the shutdown without securing the US$5.7 billion in funding that he asked for. His one concession was an offer to restore the “Dreamers” program that he decided to phase out in September 2017.
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He told reporters in the Oval Office last week that Republicans are “wasting their time” by trying to negotiate with Democrats. The president has also threatened to declare a state of emergency so he can appropriate the money he needs for the wall.
Trump will deliver his next State of the Union with the government as divided as it’s ever been under his tenure. He’s now grappling with a new Democrat-controlled House featuring several outspoken Trump critics, many of whom are eager to investigate his business dealings and possible ties to Russia. Some Democrats have been vocal about their desire to take Trump down, rather than to work with him.
Rookie Representative Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat from Michigan, promised to go after Trump ahead of her inauguration in early January.
“We’re going to go in there and we’re going to impeach the motherf******,” she said at a community political action event.
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The Democrats have refused to support any government spending bill that funds Trump’s border wall.
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Getting “tough” with North Korea
Trump reserved a significant chunk of his speech for North Korea, which he characterized as a cruel, depraved and brutal regime on the verge of threatening the U.S. with nuclear weapons.
“No regime has oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally than the cruel dictatorship in North Korea,” Trump said last year.
Trump rebuked North Korea for its brutality and promised that he would not repeat the “complacency and concessions” that “got us into this dangerous position.”
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His remarks echoed his rhetoric from 2017, during which he and Kim Jong Un traded insults and threats of nuclear war.
However, the tone of their relationship suddenly shifted last March, when Trump announced that the two leaders would meet at some point.
Trump and Kim met in Singapore in June, shaking hands in front of the cameras and sitting down for a chat together behind closed doors. They ended the meeting by signing a vaguely-worded document in which both sides pledged to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Trump touted the agreement as a major achievement, and heaped praise on Kim as the two traded messages throughout the summer.
“We fell in love, OK? No, really, he wrote me beautiful letters, and they’re great letters,” Trump said at a rally in West Virginia in September. “We fell in love.”
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North Korea has not tested a nuclear weapon or long-range missile in over a year. However, defence analysts found several new bases and missile production facilities in the North over the latter part of 2018. North Korea has also refused to allow international inspectors to look at its nuclear stockpile.
Trump and his administration have downplayed or denied these assessments and insisted that Kim is being faithful to the deal struck in Singapore. Washington and Pyongyang are currently negotiating a second meeting between the two leaders.
The North has stopped its missile tests and taken reversible steps toward denuclearization, according to a world threat assessment released by top U.S. intelligence chiefs last week.
“However, North Korea retains its (weapon of mass destruction) capabilities, and the (intelligence community) continues to assess that it is unlikely to give up all of its WMD stockpiles.”
“Much work to be done” in the Middle East
Trump promised in his 2018 State of the Union speech to take a tough stance against the Islamic State and al-Qaida. He said “almost 100 per cent” of ISIS territory had been reclaimed, “but there is much more work to be done.”
WATCH BELOW: Trump touts defeat of ISIS in 2018 State of the Union
“We will continue our fight until ISIS is defeated,” Trump said. He also vowed to change the “rules of engagement” for American soldiers in Afghanistan.
“Along with their heroic Afghan partners, our military is no longer undermined by artificial timelines, and we no longer tell our enemies our plans,” he said in his speech.
With one tweet, Trump told the whole world in December that the U.S. plans to stop fighting ISIS and withdraw its troops from the Middle East. “We have won against ISIS,” Trump declared in a video posted on his Twitter account Dec. 19. “We’ve taken back the land and now it’s time for our troops to come home.”
The Trump administration announced a short time later that it would begin withdrawing 7,000 troops from Afghanistan and 2,000 troops from Syria. The decision prompted Jim Mattis, Trump’s defence secretary, to tender his resignation.
Trump defended his decision in a Twitter rant on Dec. 20, saying that the U.S. doesn’t want to be “the Policeman of the Middle East.”
The U.S. Senate issued a bipartisan rebuke of Trump’s troop withdrawal last week, when they voted in favour of a bill brought forward to oppose the move by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The measure says ISIS and al-Qaida still pose a serious threat to the U.S., and it warns that a “precipitous withdrawal” from Syria and Afghanistan could “allow terrorists to regroup, destabilize critical regions and create vacuums that could be filled by Iran or Russia.”
“ISIS and al-Qaida have yet to be defeated,” McConnell said on Jan. 30. “And American National security interests require continued commitment to our missions there.”
There are still thousands of ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria, and thousands more dispersed around the world, the U.S. intelligence chiefs said in their report to the Senate. They also conclude that al-Qaida’s “global network will remain a (counter-terrorism) challenge for the United States and allies during the next year.”
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The U.S. recently outlined a framework for peace with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Approximately 7,000 U.S. troops will remain in the country after Trump’s withdrawal plans are complete.
Going after Iran
Trump railed against the Iran nuclear deal in his 2018 State of the Union speech, although he didn’t fully declare his intent to pull out of the agreement. The accord, which also includes several other major countries, offers Iran economic incentives in exchange for not developing nuclear weapons.
“I am asking the Congress to address the fundamental flaws in the terrible Iran nuclear deal,” Trump said in his speech.
Trump continued to bash the deal signed by his predecessor, Barack Obama, for several months, before finally pulling out of it in May.
WATCH BELOW: Trump withdraws U.S. from Iran nuclear deal
France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China say Iran is still abiding by the terms of the deal.
Iran has threatened to start enriching uranium but has not actually done so, according to international observers.
U.S. intelligence officials told the Senate last week that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.
WATCH BELOW: Trump pushes back against intelligence community’s assessment of Iran
“The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong!” Trump tweeted last Wednesday. “Since ending the terrible Iran Nuclear deal, they are MUCH different, but a source of potential danger and conflict.”
Trump claimed on Thursday that his intelligence officials’ assessments of Iran, ISIS and North Korea had been “distorted by the press” and “mischaracterized by the media.
“We continue to assess that Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device,” the intelligence chiefs write in their report, which is available online for anyone to read.
Iran is a military threat to U.S. forces and their allies in the Middle East, according to the report. It also supports terrorism and poses a cybersecurity threat to the U.S.
“From now on, we expect trading relationships to be fair and to be reciprocal,” Trump told Congress in his speech last year. “We will work to fix bad trade deals and negotiate new ones.”
WATCH BELOW: Trump expects trade to be ‘fair and reciprocal’
Trump was extremely active on the trade front in 2018, breaking deals, cutting new ones and slapping tariffs on friend and foe alike.
The U.S., Canada and Mexico signed onto a renegotiated NAFTA deal in September, although the agreement still requires approval from Congress.
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Trump also convinced South Korea to rewrite a 2012 trade deal with the U.S., in which Seoul agreed to quotas for exported steel and aluminum to the U.S.
The president has yet to remove the steel and aluminum tariffs he imposed on Canada last spring, before the new NAFTA deal was completed. He also remains locked in a complex trade dispute with China.
— With files from the Associated Press
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