US president Donald Trump called on Washington to reject “the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution” as he faced a divided Congress for the first time.
Mr Trump, who has spent two years levelling fiercely personal attacks on his Democratic rivals, declared that it was time “to bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future”.
He warned emboldened Democrats that “ridiculous partisan investigations” into his administration and businesses could hamper a surging American economy.
The president’s appeals for bipartisanship in his State of the Union address clashed with the rancorous atmosphere he has helped cultivate in the nation’s capital — as well as the desire of most Democrats to block his agenda during his next two years in office.
Their opposition was on vivid display as Democratic congresswomen in the audience formed a sea of white in a nod to early 20th-century suffragettes.
Speaking at a critical moment in his presidency, Mr Trump sought to shore up Republican support and previewed a fresh defence against Democrats as they ready a round of investigations into every aspect of his administration.
“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” he declared.
Looming over the president’s address was a fast-approaching February 15 deadline to fund the government and avoid another shutdown.
Democrats have refused to acquiesce to his demands for a border wall, and Republicans are increasingly unwilling to shut down the government to help him fulfil his signature campaign pledge.
Wary of publicly highlighting those intra-party divisions, Mr Trump made no mention of an emergency declaration in his remarks, though he did offer a lengthy defence of his call for a border wall. But he delivered no ultimatums about what it would take for him to sign legislation to keep the government open.
“I am asking you to defend our very dangerous southern border out of love and devotion to our fellow citizens and to our country,” he said.
Mr Trump devoted much of his speech to foreign policy, another area where Republicans have increasingly distanced themselves from the White House.
He announced details of a second meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, outlining a summit on February 27 and 28 in Vietnam. The two met last summer in Singapore, though that meeting only led to a vaguely worded commitment by the North to denuclearise.
Mr Trump’s address amounted to an opening argument for his re-election campaign. Polls show he has work to do, with his approval rating falling to just 34% after the shutdown, according to a recent survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
One bright spot for the president has been the economy, which has added jobs for 100 straight months.
Describing it as “the hottest economy anywhere in the world”, he said: “The only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations” – an apparent swipe at the special counsel investigation into ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign, as well as the upcoming congressional investigations.
The diverse Democratic caucus, which includes a bevy of women, sat silently for much of Mr Trump’s speech. But they leaped to their feet when he noted there are “more women in the workforce than ever before”.
The increase is due to population growth — and not something Mr Trump can credit to any of his policies.
Mr Trump also defended his decisions to withdraw US troops from Syria and Afghanistan.
“Great nations do not fight endless wars,” he said, adding that the US was working with allies to “destroy the remnants” of the Islamic State group and that he had “accelerated” efforts to reach a settlement in Afghanistan.