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Reject 'politics of revenge' President Trump tells Democrats in State of the Union speech

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: February 6, 2019  | 16:32 IST

By Lalit K Jha (Eds: Updating with more inputs and background ) Washington, Feb 6 (PTI) A defiant President Donald Trump Wednesday vowed to build a controversial wall along the US-Mexico border to stop illegal immigration and sought an end to the "politics of revenge", as he appealed to the divided Congress to bridge differences to avert another costly government shutdown. President Trump in his second State of the Union address demanded an end to "partisan investigations" into his presidency, touted economic gains during his first two years in office as well as legislative wins on issues like criminal justice reform. In his 82-minute address, the 72-year-old Republican president warned that deepening partisan tensions undermine America's progress. The annual State of the Union (SOTU) address is the keynote prime-time speech by the president to the Congress in which he sets out his legislative agenda and national priorities for the next year and highlights his achievements to the American people. Trump's calls for reconciliation were met with mostly stone-faced silence from Democrats, who bitterly oppose his demand for USD 5.7 billion for the border wall, his divisive political agenda and accuse him of hastening the decline in cross-party cooperation. The president had a record 35-day standoff with the Democrats led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over his proposed wall along the US-Mexico border, which shut down the federal government and postponed the address which was earlier scheduled on January 29. The government shutdown cost the economy a whopping USD 11 billion, including a permanent USD 3 billion loss, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said last month. "In the past, most of the people in this room voted for a wall but the proper wall never got built." "I'll get it built," Trump vowed. The "smart, strategic, see-through steel barrier", he said, will bring down the illegal crossings from Mexico. Trump presented himself as a leader who can work across party lines. "We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good," he said, earning a chant of 'USA, USA' from his supporters but a disapproving stare from Speaker Pelosi. "Together, we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions and unlock the extraordinary promise of America's future." Trump also hit out at the "ridiculous partisan investigations" into his presidency, a reference to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian interference into the 2016 election which he won. Trump has long branded the special counsel's probe a "witch hunt". "We must be united at home to defeat our adversaries abroad," he said. "If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn't work that way! "An economic miracle is taking place in the United States and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations," Trump said, as Pelosi visibly scoffed behind him. "If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn't work that way!" Trump said that illegal immigration was an urgent national crisis and he vowed to build the border wall with Mexico. While the president wants USD 5.7 billion for the wall, the Democrats have offered funding for other border security measures. Trump agreed to open the government until February 15 while lawmakers negotiate a border security funding package, but has threatened to shutter the government again or declare an emergency to secure wall funding if the deal is not to his liking. "Simply put, walls work and walls save lives. So let's work together, compromise and reach a deal that will truly make America safe," he said. Trump also declared that the US "will never become a socialist country". Though Trump spent much of his address to Congress urging lawmakers to overcome partisan gridlock, he also devoted some time to foreign policy. He celebrated the defeat of the Islamic State, adding it was time to bring US troops home from conflict zones in the Middle East. "Great nations do not fight endless wars," he said that the time had now come for a political solution to the Afghanistan problem. Trump described Iran as a "radical regime" and "the world's leading sponsor of state terror," adding: "They do bad, bad things." Trump vowed to right "calamitous" trade policies and sought to expand his power to impose tariffs which he said would empower him to respond faster during trade wars. Trump told Congress that Washington's aggressive trade negotiations with China would mean an end to its alleged "theft" of US jobs and wealth. He also asked Congress to pass the United States Reciprocal Trade Act. The United States Reciprocal Trade Act, if signed into law, could have consequences on bilateral trade with countries like India. The proposed legislation would expand the White House's latitude to impose tariffs if other countries' tariffs or non-tariff barrier exceed US ones. Trump also reiterated the US opposition to embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Last month, Trump recognised opposition figure Juan Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela amid the country's economic turmoil and political strife that has sparked a massive refugee crisis. PTI LKJ CPS NSA AKJ

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