Trump's First State of the Union: From Jerusalem to Russia, Here's What to Look For

Officials say speech will be 'unifying' and 'optimistic' and focus on the U.S. economy

U.S. President Donald Trump delivering a speech on tax reform legislation at the White House, December 13, 2017.
\ CARLOS BARRIA/REUTERS

WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump will deliver his first State of the Union Address since taking office. The speech will take place amidst growing controversy over the investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Trump's attacks on the FBI and the Justice Department. The speech is expected to focus on the state of the American economy and the recent passage of the tax reform bill by Republicans in Congress. 

Administration officials said over the weekend that while foreign policy isn't expected to be a major part of the speech, Trump would speak of his commitment to supporting America's allies around the world.

One issue that Trump could mention is his decision to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and recognize the city as Israel's capital. This policy is one of the rare decisions taken by Trump that enjoys some support within the Democratic Party, and could lead to a rare moment of bi-partisan applause, although some Democrats have expressed concerns about the move. 

Trump's senior adviser Stephen Miller is in charge of writing the speech. White House officials said the speech would be "unifying" and "optimistic," two words that have not previously been associated with speeches written by Miller, who is usually linked to Trump's anti-immigration policies. The speech was still being changed and adjusted as of Sunday, said the officials. It was not clear if Trump will mention the investigations concerning his election campaign and Russia during the speech – or ignore the controversial subject completely. 

The Democrats chose Representative Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts to deliver their response to Trump's State of the Union Address. Kennedy is 37-years-old and has served in Congress since 2013. He is often mentioned as a possible presidential contender in the 2020 election. In addition to Kennedy’s speech, the Democrats have chosen Elizabeth Guzman, a freshly elected member of the Virginia House of Delegates, to give a response in Spanish. Guzman, a social worker by training, was one of the first Hispanic women to be elected to the Virginia state legislature. 

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont will deliver his own speech in reply to Trump, and Sanders will broadcast it via his social media accounts. Sanders' speech will most likely focus on Trump's economic agenda and how it is closely aligned with the traditional policies of the Republican establishment – and not with the populist message that Trump presented to voters during the 2016 election.