Things That Matter

What We Learned From President Trump’s State Of The Union Address

President Trump delivered his State of the Union address to a split Congress for the first time Tuesday night. Topics like border security, immigration, abortion and health care dominated his address. There was even calls for unity among both Democrats and Republicans as he outlined bipartisanship policies like criminal reform and infrastructure improvements. Yet during his 1 hour, 22 minute speech, one of the longest on record, President Trump used his address to blast Democrats and rev up his political base. Here are the biggest takeaways from the State of the Union.

The president will not back down on a border wall.

With just 10 days left to avoid yet another government shutdown, President Trump spoke adamantly about his mission to secure a wall along the U.S. southern border. “I will get it built,” Trump said. “Walls work, and walls save lives.” Yet most of his claims about immigration and border wall security were either greatly exaggerated or false all together. Illegal border crossings have only declined in the past two decades while reaching their lowest point back in 2017 since 1971. He also made claims about drugs “pouring” into the country due to ineffective borders yet the huge majority of drugs are seized at ports of entry, not along the open border.

Immigration continues to be a divisive issue in the country.

President Trump attempted to correlate illegal immigration and violent crime during his address but many in the Democratic side say this is just not true.

“The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security and financial well-being of all Americans,” Trump said during his address.

According to NPR, studies show that illegal immigration doesn’t increase the prevalence of violent crimes. Studies show that native-born residents are more likely to be convicted of a crime than were immigrants in the country lawfully or unlawfully.

The President also mentioned, “large, organized caravans” coming to the U.S. but failed to provide any information on the claims. In January, a new caravan of migrants from Central America was expected to come north but many now plan to remain in Mexico. This is large part thanks to policies put in place by the new Mexican government that will supply job opportunities while they wait to seek asylum.

President Trump took aim at New York’s landmark abortion law.

Just last month, lawmakers in New York passed a new law expanding abortion rights in the state on the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The law would protect access to the procedure until 24 weeks of pregnancy in an effort to standardize abortion protections if Roe v. Wade were ever overturned. Trump made the call on Congress to pass legislation that would prohibit what he called “late-term abortion”. His remarks further intensify the controversial issue versus “pro-life” and “pro-choice” advocates. Abortion is expected to be an issue that Trump has said he plans to focus on during the 2020 election.

Women are getting all the headlines.

While President Trump spoke about the number of women benefiting in the economy, it was the number of women, particularity in the Democratic side, who grabbed the headlines.

“All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before …and exactly one century after the Congress passed the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in the Congress than ever before,” Trump said.

Many Democratic congresswomen were wearing white as a sign of solidarity and in honor of the suffragists. But after Trump made his remarks about the great number of women elected to Congress, they began to cheer and applaud the historic significance.

“You weren’t supposed to do that,” Trump said jokingly. Cameras focused in on new high-profile additions to Congress on Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) who gave high fives all around. It was one of the rare bipartisan moments throughout the entire address.

The address in many ways was a kick-off to the 2020 election.

As President Trump aspires to be a unifying political leader he will need to address more than just concerns of his own base. Issues like global warming and increasing antisemitism among minority groups were either not talked about at length or ignored all together during his address. The president was elected with less than a majority of the popular vote in 2016 and has yet to made a concerted effort to expand his base in the two years since taking office.

The 2018 midterm election showed cracks in his base starting to form as Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives and now must work with a divided congress. President Trump may have used the State of the Union as an opportunity to broaden his base perhaps one last time before the campaign for the 2020 election begins. If he is to gain new supporters, it’s going to take a lot more than just speaking to his base.


READ: Latina Activist, Undocumented Immigrants Will Attend President Trump’s State Of The Union

Share this story by tapping that little share button below

House Committee Holds Impeachment Hearings And Democrats Are Laying Out All Of Their Evidence

Things That Matter

House Committee Holds Impeachment Hearings And Democrats Are Laying Out All Of Their Evidence

PBS NewsHour / YouTube

This past Wednesday, the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump moved into the public spotlight when the House Intelligence Committee opened hearings in the Capitol. The day was marked with back and forths between members of the committee, both Democrats and Republicans, that further displayed the political divide in this country. The issue at hand is whether Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden, by freezing U.S. military aid. 

One of the key figures in leading the proceedings is Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who has been a frequent target of President Trump. The congressman is heading the Democrats’ investigation into whether Trump abused his presidential powers for political gain and against national security interests. The proceedings are expected to last at least 10 days and will be a showcase of what many Democrats believe is an opportunity to show the American public why Trump needs to be removed from office. 

“Our job is to shape public opinion, not just follow public opinion,” Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee told Vox. “It’s to do what we think is right, for our country, for our national security, and to persuade people of that.”

One of the biggest moments on the first day of the impeachment hearings came from Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) who made the argument that Trump’s actions were “criminal.” 

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), who is the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the chairman of his brother Julián Castro’s presidential bid, had one of the most notable moments on Wednesday. In speaking to Bill Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Castro tried to make the case for President Trump’s actions as criminal. Taylor is a key figure in the  proceedings as he was the top U.S. official in Ukraine as the scandal was unfolding. 

In a tense moment between the two, Castro asked Taylor if he considered President Trump’s actions worthy as being labeled as “criminal.” Castro didn’t back down as he made the comparisons to Trump’s actions to other criminal offenses. 


“So ambassadors, is attempted murder a crime?” Castro asked, repeating his question. “Is attempted murder a crime?”

“Attempted murder is a crime,” Taylor said.

“Is attempted robbery a crime?” he asked.

“Neither of us is a lawyer,” Taylor began before Castro interrupted.

“I think anyone in this room could answer that question,” he said.

“I’ll go out on a limb and say yes it is,” Taylor said.

“Is attempted extortion and bribery a crime?” Castro responded. 

“I don’t know sir,” Taylor said.


The moment resonated with many people on social media who agreed with Castro’s reasoning. 

Credit: @madg_lulu22 / Twitter

Castro’s questioning prompted varied responses from people online that agreed with that Trump had indeed committed a crime by withholding money from Ukraine. One of those people included U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) that echoed similar thoughts to that of many Democrats. 

“This is what I have been saying over and over again. Attempting a crime is a CRIME. #ImpeachmentTrumpNow,” Talib tweeted. 

In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer later Wednesday afternoon, Castro reaffirmed his position on his questioning with Taylor. “Based on the evidence that I’ve seen, the President… either he committed extortion and bribery of a foreign official or he committed attempted extortion and bribery of a foreign official… it’s still a crime.” Castro said.

This moment is huge for Castro outside of just the hearings as he pursues to challenge U.S. Senator John Cornyn, (R-Texas). Many are looking at Castro’s role in the hearings as an opportunity to make his name known in the Democratic party. 

“It’s an opportunity in the national spotlight,” Mark Jones, a Rice University political science professor, told The Statesman. It’s a chance “to reemerge on the national scene and bolster his overall relevance in the Democratic Party.”

This was one of many big moments on the first day of these impeachment hearings. 

Credit: @alexismhodges / Twitter

If these public hearings are anything like the first day, there will be a lot of action on both sides of the political aisle. Wednesday showed proof that Democrats will pull out all the stops in presenting their case for impeachment to the American people. 

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) has been one of the most staunch opponents of the Democrats’ attempts to impeach President Trump. During the hearing, Jordan said that the whistleblower was “the reason we’re all sitting here today” and that they should testify before the impeachment inquiry. The goal in doing so would be to discredit the whistleblower’s credibility. 

But Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vermont) quickly responded to Jordan’s claims by naming the actual person who started the entire Ukraine scandal.

“I’d be glad to have the person who started it all,” Welch said. “President Trump is welcome to come in and sit down right there.”

The quick exchange produced laughter and applause from some in the room. Even Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez chimed in on the moment. “Don’t sleep on Peter Welch!” she wrote on Twitter. “He’s great.”

If Wednesday is anything like the rest of these hearings we are all in for a real treat for the next few weeks. 

READ: Remembering Pedro Zamora, The HIV-Positive Man Who Changed Hearts And Minds While On ‘Real World: San Francisco’

After Years Of Fighting It, Trump Has Been Told By Judges That He Has To Turn Over His Tax Returns

Things That Matter

After Years Of Fighting It, Trump Has Been Told By Judges That He Has To Turn Over His Tax Returns

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

President Donald Trump has been saying for years that he would release his tax returns, but he just kept putting it off. When he first began his presidential campaign, GOP and Democratic candidates insisted he release his tax information in a bid to be completely transparent. Trump always maintained that he was under an audit and would release them when the audit was complete. Well, the audit turned out to be one big lie, and when all was said and done, Trump still didn’t release his tax returns. In August, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office finally said enough is enough and sued to get Trump’s tax returns in order to see his financial dealings in particular concerning Stormy Daniels. You may recall the adult film star said she was paid to be quiet about her affair with Trump, and his former lawyer Michael Cohen confirmed it was true after his arrest. Trump, however, said it was all hoax, but the law is still the law, and we’re a little close to seeing Trump’s tax receipts. 

Today, a three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court Appeals all ruled that Trump’s tax return isn’t protected just because he is the president and can still be investigated. So his lawyers have to turn over his taxes to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

Credit: @kylegriffin1 / Twitter

After reviewing historical and legal precedent, we conclude only that presidential immunity does not bar the enforcement of a state grand jury subpoena directing a third party to produce non-privileged material, even when the subject matter under investigation pertains to the President,” Second Circuit Chief Judge Robert Katzmann wrote, in an opinion joined by Judges Denny Chin and Christopher Droney, POLITICO reports. 

Jay Sekulow, Trump’s lawyer, will reportedly appeal this decision, which means it will now go to the Supreme Court. And you may recall, Trump has more friends at the highest court.

Credit: @amyklobuchar / Twitter

“The decision of the Second Circuit will be taken to the Supreme Court,” Sekulow said, according to NBC News. “The issue raised in this case goes to the heart of our Republic. The constitutional issues are significant.”

There are nine judges on the Supreme Court. After Trump’s appointee, Brett Kavanaugh was allowed to join the Supreme Court last year after he publicly testified that he did not partake in any sexual assaults in college. Now Trump has more conservative-leaning judges which could work in his favor when this tax case makes it to their courtroom. 

The matter at hand is that Cyrus Vance, head of the Manhattan D.A., wants to investigate whether Trump committed illegal acts when he allegedly paid off two women using campaign money. 

Credit: @katiephang / Twitter

If Trump is in the clear and did not use campaign money to keep two women quiet about an alleged affair, why is he trying to keep his financial records from being investigated? According to his lawyers, it’s not about that at all, it’s about protecting the president and future president’s from being indicted

The judges ruled that Trump’s taxes were fair game because the Manhattan D.A. wasn’t calling to subpoena the president, but rather his accounting firm.

Credit: @independent / Twitter

“This appeal does not require us to consider whether the president is immune from indictment and prosecution while in office, nor to consider whether the president may lawfully be ordered to produce documents for use in a state criminal proceeding,” the judges said in their ruling opinion. 

One of the many reasons why Trump is trying to keep his financial records secret is not because they may be incriminating but rather because they could show the fraudulent financial dealings of his father, their loss of billions, and perhaps their withholding of taxes. 

Earlier this year, the New York Times released stories that exposed Trump’s father, Fred Trump, paid “remarkably little in taxes to the Treasury Department,” back in the ’80s. The stories also showed how they became so-called giants in real estate. As Vox explained, “[The stories} also indicate some potentially illegal activity as Fred Trump sought to pass wealth tax-free to Donald and his siblings. The statute of limitations has passed, however, and Trump’s sister, a federal judge, abruptly retired in February, ensuring there would be no judicial ethics investigation either.”

Trump has yet to comment on the latest ruling concerning his taxes.

READ: President Trump Would Rather Sue California Than Release His Tax Returns