The Latest: Lawmakers claim prime seats for big speech

With no apparent indications of a breakthrough in the Senate to avoid a government shutdown, the Capitol is illuminated in Washington, Friday evening, Jan. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
With no apparent indications of a breakthrough in the Senate to avoid a government shutdown, the Capitol is illuminated in Washington, Friday evening, Jan. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech (all times local):

8:15 p.m.

An hour before President Donald Trump’s big speech, the House chamber is beginning to fill with lawmakers eying prime seats and making small talk.

Republicans seem more intent on arriving early. The GOP side is filling steadily while Democrats are taking a bit more time getting to their posts. Indeed, about a dozen Democratic lawmakers have announced they won’t be attending the speech.

Early arrivals include Republican Reps. Mark Walker of North Carolina, Gregg Harper of Mississippi and Louie Gohmert of Texas, all intent on securing an aisle seat and a chance to greet the president when he enters the House chamber and makes his way to the podium.

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8 p.m.

Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III says it would be easy to dismiss the first year of President Donald Trump’s presidency as “chaos” marked by partisanship and politics.

But Kennedy says Trump has caused serious problems for the American people, including proposals that target Muslims, transgendered people and others.

Kennedy is delivering the Democratic response to Trump’s State of the Union address.

In excerpts released early, Kennedy says the Trump administration “isn’t just targeting the laws that protect us — they are targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection.”

In apparent reference to Trump, Kennedy says “bullies may land a punch” and leave a mark but have “never managed to match the strength and spirit of a people united in defense of their future.”

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7:45 p.m.

President Donald Trump is declaring a “new American moment” in his State of the Union address — but his former campaign foe, Hillary Clinton, declared one first.

“This is our New American Moment,” Trump will say, touting the state of the economy, according to excerpts released by the White House. “There has never been a better time to start living the American dream.”

In a 2010 speech, then-Secretary of State Clinton told the Council on Foreign Relations that “a new American moment” was taking shape on the global stage, “a moment when our global leadership is essential, even if we must often lead in new ways.”

It’s hardly the first time Trump has appropriated a slogan. “Let’s Make America Great Again” was popularized in 1980 by Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign.

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6:50 p.m.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue will skip Tuesday’s State of the Union address, serving as the so-called “designated survivor.”

A member of the presidential line of succession traditionally skips the address to the joint session of Congress and is safeguarded at an undisclosed location to ensure continuity of government in the event of a catastrophe. Usually, a lesser-known member of the president’s Cabinet is selected — with higher-profile officials retained to applaud the president’s speech from the floor of the House.

The Cold War-era ritual took on new significance after the attacks of September 11, 2001, as fears of terrorism replaced nuclear war as a top threat facing the nation.

A designated high-ranking member of Congress also traditionally skips the speech to maintain the legislative branch’s continuity plans.

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6:40 p.m.

President Donald Trump will tell the American people that it is “our new American moment” and call on Republicans and Democrats to come together in his State of the Union speech.

That’s according to excerpts released Tuesday evening by the White House.

Trump will strike an optimistic and bipartisan tone, telling Americans he is “extending an open hand to work with members of both parties, Democrats and Republicans, to protect our citizens, of every background, color and creed. ”

He’ll also discuss the impact of the Republican tax overhaul, explain his administration’s efforts to combat the Islamic State group and call on Congress to pass a major infrastructure investment plan.

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6:30 p.m.

A handful of immigrants who have legally lived in the U.S. since disasters struck their countries years ago will attend President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address as guests of Democratic lawmakers.

The immigrants benefit from temporary protections granted to people from countries ravaged by natural disasters or war.

The Trump administration has ended the temporary protection for El Salvador, Haiti and Nicaragua and will make a decision later this year for Honduras.

Democratic lawmakers want to put a face on immigration policy.

Nery Martinez, guest of Nevada Rep. Jacky Rosen, fled civil war in El Salvador and now lives in Las Vegas. Martinez says he’ll be at the address to remind the president that temporary protection recipients are “here to make this already great nation even greater.”

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5:30 p.m.

What has President Donald Trump learned in his first year as president? That you have to lead with “heart.”

That’s what Trump told network news anchors during a pre-State of the Union lunch Tuesday.

Trump says, “You govern with all of the instincts of a businessperson, but you have to add much more heart and soul into your decisions than you would ever have even thought of before.”

That’s according to excerpts released by the White House.

Trump also says issues like immigration would be “so simple” to solve if they were pure business matters, but he says he realizes that “millions and millions of people” are affected by his actions.

He adds that “it’s much different, in that way, than I thought it would be.”

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4:30 p.m.

First lady Melania Trump is promoting the guests she’ll be sitting with at her husband’s first State of the Union address.

The first lady tweeted Tuesday that she’ll be joined at the speech “by an honorable group of Americans,” including “heroes who have served our nation in times of need, families who have suffered at the hands of evil, and citizens who have embraced the American dream.”

Mrs. Trump has been keeping a low profile following a report that adult film star Stormy Daniels had an affair with Donald Trump in 2006, shortly after he and the first lady wed.

Daniels released a statement Tuesday saying the affair never happened.

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3:55 p.m.

Many congressional Democrats are giving their guest passes for President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address to young immigrants known as “Dreamers,” who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

More than 20 Dreamers are expected in the House gallery Tuesday night to put a face on the toll of the congressional stalemate on immigration policy.

They are the guests of high-profile Democrats including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and potential 2020 presidential candidates including New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and California Sen. Kamala Harris.

Trump ended Obama-era protections for such immigrants. He now says he wants to grant them a path to citizenship, but Congress has been unable to come up with a legislative solution for an issue at the center of the recent government shutdown.

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2:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump has told news anchors from all the major TV networks at a White House lunch that he is striving to bring the country together.

Journalists from outlets including PBS, CNN and Fox News say Trump told the group Tuesday that there is “tremendous divisiveness” in the country that has existed for years.

He says if he could unite the country, he would consider it a great achievement.

The lunch is an annual White House tradition ahead of the president’s State of the Union address.

Fox News host Bret Baier said on the “The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino” that the lunch menu featured smoked tomato soup, thyme roasted chicken and orange merengue pudding. Baier says the rest of the lunch was off the record.

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12:30 p.m.

Four of the Supreme Court’s nine justices are expected to attend the State of the Union address.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch are expected at the speech. Roberts, Breyer and Kagan regularly attend, as do justices appointed by the president who is speaking. Trump nominated Gorsuch a year ago.

Among the justices who will not be in the audience, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito haven’t attended a State of the Union speech in years. Alito last went in 2010, when he was captured on camera mouthing the words “not true” in response to President Barack Obama’s criticism of the court’s then new ruling in the Citizens United campaign finance case.

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s long-standing travel plans have him in California. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in Rhode Island and Justice Sonia Sotomayor is in Panama.

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12:18 p.m.

President Donald Trump’s top economic and national security advisers help with his State of the Union address.

A White House official says national security adviser H.R. McMaster and economic adviser Gary Cohn contributed to the speech Trump plans to deliver Tuesday night at the Capitol. The official says they were assisted by policy adviser Stephen Miller, staff secretary Rob Porter and other speechwriters.

The official stressed that the speech is the president’s and that Trump has spent months giving his aides “tidbits” on lines he wants to use.

The White House has said Trump will use the speech to discuss economy and national security, as well as trade, immigration and infrastructure.

The official was not authorized to discuss internal White House deliberations by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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1:27 a.m.

President Donald Trump will herald a robust economy and push for bipartisan congressional action on immigration in Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

The speech marks the ceremonial kickoff of Trump’s second year in office and is traditionally a president’s biggest platform to speak to the nation. However, Trump has redefined presidential communications with his high-octane, filter-free Twitter account and there’s no guarantee that the carefully crafted speech will resonate beyond his next tweet.

Still, White House officials are hopeful the president can use the prime-time address to Congress and millions of Americans watching at home to take credit for a soaring economy. Trump argues that the tax overhaul he signed into law late last year has boosted business confidence and will lead companies to reinvest in the United States.

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