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Trump faces a more hostile Congress for State of the Union speech

President Donald Trump is seen at his first

President Donald Trump is seen at his first State of the Union on Jan. 30, 2018, as Vice President Mike Pence and then-House Speaker Paul Ryan applaud. Credit: Pool / AP / Win McNamee

Claps and clapbacks

After last year's State of the Union speech, President Donald Trump lashed out at the Democratic members of Congress who failed to stand and applaud as "treasonous" and "un-American."

There will be more of them Tuesday night, including one — Nancy Pelosi — who will be seated just behind him on the top tier of the House dais, where a Republican, Paul Ryan, used to be. This could be tense, with Trump battling perceptions of diminished power, along with the defeat Pelosi handed him after the 35-day government shutdown over his border wall demands.

Trump is expected to paint a picture of a country on the comeback, while pushing new trade deals as well as proposals about drug pricing, health care and public works, The Associated Press reported. But Trump's ability to move the rest of his agenda also is under increasing doubt, as is the boast he sold to voters in 2016 that they were electing a master dealmaker.

Asked about the president's legislative prospects, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), a Trump supporter, told Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez that with the “current state of play I think it’s extremely difficult to get anything at all done.”

As Trump knows, the House Democrats he will see before him now have the power and determination to investigate his business dealings, his campaign’s purported ties to Russia, and his administration’s earlier “zero tolerance” policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the U.S. and Mexico border. The threat of impeachment also is on Trump's mind.

“The only way they can win, because they can’t win the [2020] election, is to bring out the artificial way of impeachment,” Trump said in an excerpt aired Monday from his CBS "Face the Nation" interview. Then he added, "You can't impeach somebody for doing the best job of any president, in the history of our country, for the first two years."

Also from Newsday's Figueroa: Five things to watch for from the speech, including whether Trump announces his intention to declare a state of emergency to try to get his wall money, if Congress won't give it to him.

Janison: Unsolved mysteries

The speech could be the perfect opportunity for Trump to clear up confusion, inconsistencies and many unanswered questions.

Like how is his intention to keep troops in Iraq "to keep watching" its neighbor Iran going to work when Iraqi President Barham Salih publicly rejected such a plan Monday? How does it fit in with his plan to pull out of Syria, and why did he put off an immediate withdrawal from there?

What does he know that leads him to discount advice from his intelligence chiefs? For his border wall, does he have a realistic plan to obtain all the land that would be needed and could he estimate how much it would cost?

He could explain it all, writes Newsday's Dan Janison, but don't count on it.

Hits and misses

Trump scored an incomplete on the goals he set in his 2018 State of the Union address.

There has been no overhaul of immigration law, nor has he advanced a “great wall on our southern border,” though he's still trying. A $1.5 billion infrastructure plan has gotten nowhere.

On promised trade deals, he made one with South Korea. The NAFTA replacement negotiated with Canada and Mexico needs approval from Congress. The other big one — with China — remains elusive, and tit-for-tat punitive tariffs could escalate if there's no deal with Beijing by March.

With bipartisan support, Trump won a criminal justice overhaul and expanded access to experimental treatments for patients facing terminal illnesses. But efforts to bring down prescription drug prices haven't gotten very far.

The emergency cord peril

Trump has been privately warned by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to think hard before declaring a national emergency to build his border wall, according to The Washington Post. It's not just that some Republicans are skittish about the president invoking such power or about the court battle likely to ensue. It also would give Pelosi and House Democrats a chance to embarrass him again.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) called it a "dangerous step" and "not a good strategy," CNN reported. He warned that Pelosi would "introduce a resolution of disapproval that will pass the House and then come over here and divide Republicans."

Under the provisions of the National Emergencies Act, a presidential declaration can be terminated if lawmakers pass a joint resolution to do so. If the House does so, the Senate will be forced under the act to take a stand. Trump could lose if a handful of GOP senators defect. He would still have the option to veto the resolution, and the two-thirds majorities to override a veto would be tougher to muster.

Money for nothing?

Billionaire and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has hired more than two dozen top Democratic operatives as he considers a presidential bid, The Washington Post reports. Kevin Sheekey, a longtime adviser, said, “Mike has certainly spent more than anyone else has raised” in the emerging Democratic field.

But the chance remains that Bloomberg won't run, especially if former Vice President Joe Biden decides to jump in, because their brand of politics is similar, the Post said.

So what's new with Biden? He's still anguishing over it, according to The Atlantic. But he’s giving everyone he’s seen in recent weeks the feeling that he’s very close to saying yes, but could still end up as a no, the magazine writes.

What else is happening:

  • New Yorker David Malpass, now at the Treasury Department, will be Trump's nominee to head the World Bank, of which he's been a critic. Malpass ran for U.S. Senate as a Republican and his wife Adele is a former Manhattan GOP chair.
  • Uber-wealthy attendees who joined Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross at a Palm Beach gala Saturday night were unworried by Democrats' calls to boost taxes on the rich, Bloomberg News reports. “Those plans are so antithetical for what’s good for growth in our country, they’ll go nowhere,” said hedge funder Ken Griffin, who recently bought a New York apartment for $238 million.
  • The Trump era's biggest winner in dollars has been the president's top nemesis in the business world, Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, according to Bloomberg News. Bezos' net worth has shot up by $66.8 billion to $135.4 billion, making him the world's richest person, the report said.
  • A Politico/Morning Consult poll released Monday found that 76 percent of registered voters believe the wealthiest Americans should pay more in taxes. According to a recent Fox News survey, 70 percent of Americans favor raising taxes on those earning over $10 million. Agreeing were 54 percent of Republicans.
  • Trump nominated former oil lobbyist David Bernhardt to lead the Interior Department. Bernhardt has been acting secretary since Ryan Zinke resigned in December amid ethics investigations.
  • Federal prosecutors in Manhattan subpoenaed Trump's inauguration committee for documents, ABC News reports, citing sources with direct knowledge.
  • The Trump administration blew Monday's legal deadline to submit its fiscal 2020 budget request, reports Roll Call. There is no penalty for not hitting the target date.
  • The Iraq government has shown rare unity — against Trump's declaration that the United States should keep a presence there to "watch" Iran.

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