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    Trump's Border Wall: 'Unlikely the Democrats Are Going to Give In' - Scholar

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    According to the White House preview, US President Donald Trump’s speech during his State of the Union address will focus on promoting economic strength and border security. Radio Sputnik discussed the upcoming speech with Dr Jeanne Zaino, an American political analyst and professor of Political Science at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York.

    Sputnik: Trump's State of the Nation address comes amid all this confrontation with the Democrats. How much pushback could we expect against whatever promises Trump is going to make during this address?

    Dr Jeanne Zaino: Yes, this is his second State of the Union, his first year he did one with the State of the State. This is the second State of the Union but it is the first before a divided Congress. So to your point, he will be facing a Congress, particularly a House, made up of Democrats, many of whom are very unhappy with Donald Trump, in the way he has served.

    And so I think we will see some of that reflected as it pertains to issues like immigration and the issue in the question of whether he, in fact, will declare a state of emergency to get the wall built. So many of these factors that have made Democrats and their base very, very frustrated with this president. I think he is going to raise some of these issues tonight and we'll have to see how they respond.

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    Sputnik: Well, yes, now that you have mentioned, of course, the wall, the speech comes after this longest shutdown in US history and we have seen Donald Trump struggling to push his agenda forward, particularly, regarding the wall. In your opinion what chances does Trump have to go ahead with his agenda?

    Dr Jeanne Zaino: It's very, very tough. I think some of the issues, you mentioned at the top, something maybe like infrastructure reform, he may be able to find common ground with the Democrats.

    But on issues like immigration and the wall, particularly as it pertains to building the wall, it's unlikely the Democrats are going to give in on that and of course, without funding from the House Democrats, the wall won't be built unless he declares a state of emergency.

    So there are some areas, very, very few, but some in which he may find common ground, but I think primarily what he is going to be doing is letting Democrats and particularly moderate Republicans know that this is what he plans to do. He is hoping and inviting them to join and support him, but I don't think he is going to find a lot of common ground there.

    Sputnik: How much of the message is going to be about illegal migration?

    Dr Jeanne Zaino: I think a good deal of it. I think usually the way these speeches go is he will review what he sees as the triumphs of the last year and he has something to talk about. He can celebrate very low unemployment.

    The markets have been fairly steady and strong. He did get a criminal justice bill past. He has a tax bill pass. He has got his justices appointed to the Supreme Court. So for his base, he is going to celebrate what he sees and they see as some real achievements there.

    And then the bulk of the rest of the speech will be on what he hopes to do in the coming year. And certainly, as you mentioned coming after the longest partial shutdown in history and this really contentious issue over immigration, he is going to have to talk about that. I think we will also hear him talk about infrastructure at the cost of healthcare. He will also talk about relationships abroad.

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    I think he will focus on North Korea, which he sees as a real positive find for him. I think he will focus on Iran, and ISIS [Daesh* in Arabic], of course, Russia. I don't know if he will touch the Mueller probe directly but certainly he will touch on those foreign policy issues and of course, Venezuela as one of the latest issues that has erupted on the foreign policy front. So he is going to talk about what he hopes to do going forward in all of those areas.

    Sputnik: I was going to ask you, how much do you think that all these butting heads during the shutdown has chipped away at all at Trump's confidence and his ability to push forward his agenda, or not?

    Dr Jeanne Zaino: Yes, it has certainly pushed down his poll numbers. Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats have been the beneficiaries of his drop in poll numbers. Now certainly, he can recuperate on that.

    I don't know if that has diminished his confidence per se but the reality is he is facing a divided Congress. And we need to remember that he could not get the wall built in two years with a Republican Congress.

    So the idea he could, you know, fulfil this campaign promise with a Democratic Congress is unthinkable at this point. So I am not sure about his confidence, he is a very confident person but he has got to be realistic in feeling that he is going to have to find a way to end runaround Congress to get things done.

    Hence, we might see a call for an emergency declaration, use of executive orders and other powers that other presidents have used when they faced a recalcitrant Congress.

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    Sputnik: Yes. Do you think we should expect any breakthroughs really because everything you have said shows that there is really not much wiggle room, is there?

    Dr Jeanne Zaino: There is really not and he could be pessimistic but it is not just that we are facing a divided Congress, it is that we are also looking at the 2020 election that many people have already announced they are running for, which really puts a damper on people's willingness to go forward and engage in some sort of compromise on issues their base cares about.

    So, as we face a divided Congress, as we face the 2020 election, very, very tough unless again the president focuses on little wins and things that the Democrats want. So, for instance, infrastructure, which I keep mentioning, or if he was willing to talk about DACA and some of the people who were brought over to the United States as illegals, as children.

    He may find some common ground but again that depends on the president's willingness to find areas in which he could really appeal to moderate Democrats, moderate Republicans and sort of cobble together a coalition.

    Interestingly as you look at national security, it is one of the odd things that sort of joins the president and his sort of "America First" approach with some of the progressive liberals. So there are some strange bedfellows he could find but very, very tough to imagine this is going to be a very active Congress over the next year.

    Sputnik: And finally, do we know to what extent because you have mentioned of course the 2020 election, do we know to what extent this State of the Union address will reflect Trump's 2020 campaign promises?

    Dr Jeanne Zaino: I think he will probably give us a preview as to what his message [will be]. And that is why I think, the White House has said he is going to give a message of unity and bipartisanship because, of course, when he runs as an incumbent in 2020, it is much different than running as a challenger in 2016. As a challenger, he could make the case that things are broken and he is going to fix it.

    But by 2020 he has owned Washington DC for four years and his message is going to have to be much different. It is going to have to be one of optimism, one of a celebration of all that he has achieved, one of complimenting the agenda he has put forward and the strides he has made.

    So I do think we are starting to see them pivot towards what might be a first look at what he is going to say in 2020. But with a country this divided and people as frustrated with the tone and the policies he has put forward, I think it is going to be a real uphill battle for him to solve that across the divide.

    *ISIS also known as Daesh, a terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.

    The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

     

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