Trump accuses Dems of ‘treasonous’ behavior
President Trump on Monday accused Democrats of “treasonous” behavior during his State of the Union address, escalating partisan tensions during a crucial stretch for Congress.
Trump took aim at Democratic lawmakers who refused to applaud during his speech last week when he mentioned his achievements during his first year in office, a reaction he called “un-American.”
“Can we call that treason? Why not?” the president said during a speech in Ohio. “They certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”
Trump signaled that Democrats’ refusal to cheer “very positive news” in his speech, such as low unemployment rates for Hispanics and African-Americans, will make it difficult for him to work with them on government spending and immigration.
He said the Democrats “would rather see Trump do badly than our country do well,” calling their behavior “very selfish.”
Lawmakers are facing a Thursday deadline to fund the government and must act by March 5 to preserve protections for young immigrants living illegally in the U.S., both issues that have been stalled by partisan gridlock.
The president used the 47-minute speech as a warm-up act for the 2018 midterm elections, even though the White House billed it as an official event, and not a political one, meaning taxpayers footed the bill.
He took repeated shots at Democratic congressional leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and praised Ohio GOP Rep. Jim Renacci, who is running for Senate in the fall.
Trump also attacked Democratic incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) for voting against his tax overhaul, which the president said is bolstering the economy.
“We had no Democrats. Nobody. Not one, including your other senator. He voted against it,” Trump said. “If they ever took over, your taxes would go way up and you would see some bad things happen.”
A jobs report released Friday showed the economy adding 200,000 jobs in January. It also showed some wage growth, another data point suggesting a strengthening economy.
But Trump’s speech came against a backdrop of a precipitous sell-off in U.S. stock markets.
Cable networks showed the Dow Jones average plummet as Trump spoke. Losses were around 500 to 600 points down when Trump began his speech but was down more than 1,000 points when Fox News and CNN broke away to cover the market drop.
The Dow was down nearly 1,500 points at 3:12 p.m., after enduring a previous fall last week. But in a sign of the volatility, it rose about 400 points minutes later. It closed down more than 1,100 points, erasing its gains for the year.
Stocks are falling in part because investors fear rising inflation will lead the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates.
But Trump has repeatedly highlighted the rising stock market as a sign of his economic stewardship and Monday’s losses muddied his economic message.
Trump spoke at Sheffer Corporation, a suburban Cincinnati manufacturer that handed out $1,000 bonuses to its 126 employees after the GOP tax reform bill became law.
The president invited a handful of workers on stage to share how the tax cut helped them and they mentioned using the money for pay for new houses and their children’s college educations.
The president took credit for enticing major corporations to invest in the U.S. states and create jobs, tying it to his economic agenda.
“You can work hard, but if you don’t have the right leader setting the right tone, in all fairness — I’m not even saying — I am nonbraggadocious,” he said.
The tone of Monday’s speech was a sharp break from Trump’s State of the Union address when he appealed to Democrats and Republicans to work together to pass major legislation on immigration and infrastructure.
“Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people,” the president said during his address. “This is really the key. These are the people we were elected to serve.”
But hope for bipartisan unity quickly faded after the divisive reception the speech received.
Trump also stoked partisan tensions by authorizing the release of a memo drafted by congressional Republicans that accused the FBI of political bias in the Russia investigation.
The president appeared to reference the memo in his Ohio speech.
“Oh, but did we catch them in the act or not?” he said. “You know what I’m talking. Oh, did we catch them in the act? They are very embarrassed. They never thought they were going to get caught. We caught them. It’s so much fun, like, the great sleuth.”
Democrats have disputed the contents of the memo, saying it contains false and misleading information.
House Intelligence Committee ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is seeking to release a counter memo that is designed to rebut the GOP document. The White House has said it is open to approving its publication.
Trump attacked the California Democrat on Twitter earlier Monday, writing that, “Little Adam Schiff, who is desperate to run for higher office, is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington, right up there with Comey, Warner, Brennan and Clapper!”
Updated at 4:07 p.m.