President Donald Trump will give his third State of the Union address Tuesday night, one day before he will likely be acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate in his impeachment trial.
Trump is expected to avoid any mention of the Senate trial and instead use the annual speech to promote the “Great American comeback." According to administration officials, Americans can expect an optimistic speech, despite the fact that many of the Democratic foes he targets relentlessly on social media will be sitting in the U.S. Capitol listening to his speech.
Trump isn’t the first president to deliver the State of the Union amid impeachment proceedings. On Jan. 19, 1999, former President Bill Clinton delivered a lengthy speech in the middle of his Senate impeachment trial. Some Republicans, such as former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, refused to attend the speech, and thought it was inappropriate for the House to even offer Clinton an invitation to speak.
Trump’s speech also comes hours after a debacle in Iowa, where Democrats still don’t know who won the state’s first-in-the-nation caucus due to technical issues and what the party described as “inconsistencies” in the reporting data. It’s unclear if Trump will mention the caucus in his speech, but called them an “unmitigated disaster” on Twitter Tuesday morning.
The State of the Union will air on all major broadcast networks and cable news channels to an expected audience of 40 million to 45 million viewers. It will also be streamed live online. Here’s what you need to know ahead of the address:
Trump is expected to begin his address live from the Capitol shortly after 9 p.m. Trump’s first two State of the Union speeches took more than 1 hour and 20 minutes each, while his first address to Congress in February 2017 lasted a little more than an hour.
The average length of Trump’s speeches to Congress is 1 hour and 14 minutes. Using that measure, Trump’s address should end around 10:14 p.m.
Following Trump’s speech, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will deliver the Democratic response, a high-profile spot often reserved for up-and-coming politicians.
Whitmer, who once aspired to be an ESPN broadcaster before attending law school, has served as the battleground state’s governor for just a year. Prior to that, the 48-year-old mother of two served 14 years in the Michigan statehouse as a state senator and state representative.
During her rebuttal, which she’ll deliver from her daughters’ high school in East Lansing, Whitmer is expected to hardly mention Trump and instead focus on the “fundamentals” such as fixing deteriorating roads and helping train people for better-paying jobs.
Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar, who famously said Trump was “not welcome” in El Paso following a shooting that killed 22 people, will deliver the Democrats’ Spanish-language response.
The White House has not yet said who will be this year’s designated survivor — the sole member of the Cabinet who doesn’t attend the State of the Union at the Capitol in the unlikely event an attack or disaster wipes out the entire government during the speech.
We do know it won’t be acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf or acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, because Cabinet members serving in an acting capacity are ineligible to act as the designated survivor. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is also ineligible due to the fact she was born in Taiwan, and only individuals born in the United States may serve as president.
Last year, Trump’s designated survivor was former Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who left the administration in December.