By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - President Donald Trump urged unity Tuesday in his first State of the Union address following a year of divisive rhetoric and policies.
"This in fact is our new American Moment. There has never been a better time to start living the American dream," Trump declared before a joint session of Congress, using a phrase coined by his Democratic rival in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton. "We want every American to know the dignity of a hard day’s work; we want every child to be safe in their home at night, and we want every citizen to be proud of this land that we all love."
Throughout his first year in office, Trump has struck a markedly different tone in words and policy.
In addition to lambasting opponents with pejorative rhetoric, Trump has worked to halt immigration from Muslim-majority countries, removed protected status for immigrants who would otherwise have to return to dangerous or impoverished conditions, and ended a program intended to shield from deportation those brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Trump has since proposed a renewal of the protections as well as a pathway to citizenship for "Dreamers" -- in exchange for a raft of immigration overhauls he has been seeking, including funding for his wall along the U.S.'s southern border with Mexico, which he maintains will be paid for by Mexico.
Trump said the reforms he is seeking "represent a down-the-middle compromise, and one that will create a safe, modern and lawful immigration system".
During his address, Trump urged congressional Democrats and Republicans "to come together to give us safe, fast, reliable, and modern infrastructure that our economy needs and our people deserve".
The appeal for bipartisan unity may fall on deaf ears for some who the president had previously taken swipes at, regardless of party. Just last week Trump called Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer "Cryin' Chuck", and has repeatedly called Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas".
Moreover, officials had indicated Trump would lay out details of his infrastructure plan, but what he presented Tuesday night was short on anything other than its whopping $1.5 trillion price tag.
Hanging over his speech, however, are multiple ongoing investigations into the Trump campaign and its possible collusion with Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election that officials have said was aimed at undercutting Clinton.
No president has faced such a threat to his future in office so early in his presidency.
"For the last year we have sought to restore the bonds of trust between our citizens and their government," he said. "All Americans deserve accountability and respect -- and that is what we are giving them."
Turning to foreign policy, Trump urged Congress to approve funding to modernize America's nuclear arsenal to deter potential attacks on the homeland, he said.
"Perhaps someday in the future there will be a magical moment when the countries of the world will get together to eliminate their nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, we are not there yet," he said.
"We need only look at the depraved character of the North Korean regime to understand the nature of the nuclear threat it could pose to America and our allies," he said.
The administration is likely to release its nuclear posture review Friday, and Mark Perry, an independent defense analyst, said it will include funding requests for the development and deployment of low-yield nuclear weapons.
"Many senior military officers believe the expenditures might be better spent on resolving readiness shortfalls," Perry told Anadolu Agency, noting that Pentagon sources have said it will cost about $1.2 trillion to modernize U.S. nuclear forces over a 30-year span.
Trump said he signed an executive order directing Secretary of Defense James Mattis to "reexamine our military detention policy" and keep the controversial military prison at Guantanamo Bay open.