US President Donald Trump is set to make his last State of the Union address, at least of his first presidential term, to the US Congress later today. His address comes just one day ahead of a crucial impeachment vote in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was apparently hoping to avoid such a situation, pushing for a vote on the day that Republicans successfully buried Democrats' hope for calling witnesses to the Senate trial – 31 January. But McConnell faced opposition from Senate GOP members, and had to schedule it for 5 February.
It's unclear so far what topics the POTUS will touch upon in his address and whether the impeachment process, which Trump dubbed a "witch hunt" and repeatedly criticised for being planned to affect the upcoming presidential election, will be on this list. Chris Murphy, Senate Democrat, suggested that it would be the case.
"I expect that he’s going to be over the top. I would be surprised if he wasn’t bombastic and self-congratulatory. I would be surprised if he didn’t take potshots at the press and Democrats and impeachment managers", he said to reporters.
At the same time, Trump's own allies from the Republican Party, specifically Senator Marco Rubio, expressed hope that the president will stay off the controversial topic and will focus on his numerous achievements and plans for 2020 instead.
"It’s the State of the Union. I just think there’s no way you talk about [impeachment] and that not be the takeaway. Talk about trade. Talk about the issues in the Middle East, Iran, Iraq, the agenda for the rest of this year […] look back at the economic performance for the last couple of years", he suggested.
Not all of Congress will be there to witness whether Trump uses the State of the Union address. Several House Democrats including Steve Cohen, Frederica Wilson and Earl Blumenauer have announced they will boycott his speech.
House Democrats initiated impeachment process in September 2019, accusing Trump of allegedly forcing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to meddle in the 2020 Presidential election by starting a criminal probe into one of his potential rivals, Democrat Joe Biden. Democrats claim that POTUS used military aid to Ukraine as leverage, as this was frozen ahead of Trump's July call with the Ukrainian president, where he expressed hope that Zelensky would look into allegations that Biden pressured previous Ukrainian administration into terminating criminal investigation into his son, Hunter.
Trump denies any wrongdoing and released a transcript of the telephone call in question to prove his point. Zelensky also denies experiencing any pressure. POTUS then repeatedly blasted the impeachment as an attempt by Democrats to influence the election outcome in their favour.
The US House of Representatives successfully impeached Trump and passed the case to the Senate for trial. Unlike the House, the Senate is dominated by the GOP which means that Trump is almost certain to be acquitted, unless some Republican Senators defect.