Democracy & Elections

National Security Highlights in the 2020 State of the Union

Gordon Ahl
Wednesday, February 5, 2020, 11:49 AM

Here are the excerpts most relevant to Lawfare readers, organized by topic, in the order in which they were mentioned.

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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On Feb. 4, President Trump delivered his State of the Union Address from the U.S. Capitol. Below are the excerpts most relevant to Lawfare readers, organized by topic, in the order in which they were mentioned. A full transcript is available here.


On energy and climate:

Thanks to our bold regulatory reduction campaign, the United States has become the number-one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere the world, by far.

With the tremendous progress we have made over the past three years, America is now energy independent, and energy jobs, like so many other elements of our country, are at a record high.

On North American trade:

Companies are not leaving. They are coming back to the USA.

The fact is that everybody wants to be where the action is, and the United States of America is, indeed, the place where the action is. One of the biggest promises I made to the American people was to replace the disastrous NAFTA trade deal.

In fact, unfair trade is perhaps the single biggest reason that I decided to run for president. Following NAFTA's adoption, our nation lost one in four manufacturing jobs. Many politicians came and went, pledging to change or replace NAFTA, only to do so and then absolutely nothing happened.

But unlike so many who came before me, I keep my promises. We did our job.

Six days ago, I replaced NAFTA and signed the brand-new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement into law. The USMCA will create nearly 100,000 new high-paying American auto jobs and massively boost exports for our farmers, ranchers, and factory workers.

It will also bring trade with Mexico and Canada to a much higher level, but also to be a much greater degree of fairness and reciprocity. We will have that. Fairness and reciprocity. And I say that finally, because it's been many, many years since we were treated fairly on trade.

This is the first major trade deal in many years to earn the strong backing of America's labor unions.

On trade with China:

I also promised our citizens that I would impose tariffs to confront China's massive theft of America's jobs. Our strategy has worked. Days ago, we signed the groundbreaking new agreement with China that will defend our workers, protect our intellectual property, bring billions and billions of dollars into our Treasury, and open vast new markets for products made and grown right here in the USA.

For decades, China has taken advantage of the United States. Now we have changed that, but, at the same time, we have perhaps the best relationship we've ever had with China, including with President Xi. They respect what we've done because, quite frankly, they could never really believe that they were able to get away with what they were doing year after year, decade after decade, without someone in our country stepping up and saying, "That's enough."

On Cuba and Venezuela:

As we restore American leadership throughout the world, we are once again standing up for freedom in our hemisphere.

That's why my administration reversed the failing policies of the previous administration on Cuba.

We are supporting the hopes of Cubans, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans to restore democracy. The United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro is an illegitimate ruler, a tyrant who brutalizes his people. But Maduro's grip on tyranny will be smashed and broken. Here this evening is a very brave man who carries with him the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of all Venezuelans.

Joining us in the gallery is the true and legitimate president of Venezuela, Juan Guaido…

Please take this message back that all Americans are united with the Venezuelan people in their righteous struggle for freedom. Thank you very much, Mr. President.

Thank you very much.

Socialism destroys nations. But always remember: Freedom unifies the soul.

On defense spending and NATO:

To safeguard American liberty, we have invested a record-breaking $2.2 trillion in the United States military.

We have purchased the finest planes, missiles, rockets, ships, and every other form of military equipment, and it's all made right here in the USA.

We are also getting our allies finally to help pay their fair share.

I have raised contributions from other NATO members by more than $400 billion, and the number of allies meeting their minimum obligations has more than doubled.

On Space Force:

And just weeks ago, for the first time since President Truman established the Air Force more than 70 years earlier, we created a brand-new branch of the United States Armed Forces. It's called the Space Force.

On the U.S.-Mexico border wall:

This will be a tremendous boon to our already very strongly guarded southern border where, as we speak, a long, tall, and very powerful wall is being built.

We have now completed over 100 miles and have over 500 miles fully completed in a very short period of time. Early next year, we will have substantially more than 500 miles completed.

On Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE):

A better tomorrow for all Americans also requires us to keep America safe. That means supporting the men and women of law enforcement at every level, including our nation's heroic ICE officers.

Last year, our brave ICE officers arrested more than 120,000 criminal aliens charged with nearly 10,000 burglaries, 5,000 sexual assaults, 45,000 violent assaults, and 2,000 murders.

Tragically, there are many cities in America where radical politicians have chosen to provide sanctuary for these criminal illegal aliens.

In sanctuary cities, local officials order police to release dangerous criminal aliens to prey upon the public, instead of handing them over to ICE to be safely removed...

The state of California passed an outrageous law declaring their whole state to be a sanctuary for criminal illegal immigrants, a very terrible sanctuary, with catastrophic results...

Senator Thom Tillis has introduced legislation to allow Americans like Jody to sue sanctuary cities and states when a loved one is hurt or killed as a result of these deadly practices.

I ask Congress to pass the Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act immediately. The United States of America should be a sanctuary for law-abiding Americans, not criminal aliens.

In the last three years, ICE has arrested over 5,000 wicked human traffickers, and I have signed nine pieces of legislation to stamp out the menace of human trafficking, domestically and all around the globe.

On immigration and border security:

My administration has undertaken an unprecedented effort to secure the southern border of the United States.

Before I came into office, if you showed up illegally on our southern border and were arrested, you were simply released and allowed into our country, never to be seen again. My administration has ended catch-and-release.

If you come illegally, you will now be promptly removed from our country.

Very importantly, we entered into historic cooperation agreements with the governments of Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. As a result of our unprecedented efforts, illegal crossings are down 75 percent since May, dropping eight straight months in a row.

And as the wall rapidly goes up, drug seizures rise and the border crossings are going down, and going down very rapidly.

To build on these historic gains, we are working on legislation to replace our outdated and randomized immigration system with one based on merit, welcoming those who follow the rules, contribute to our economy, support themselves financially, and uphold our values.

On space exploration:

In reaffirming our heritage as a free nation, we must remember that America has always been a frontier nation. Now we must embrace the next frontier: America's manifest destiny in the stars.

I am asking Congress to fully fund the Artemis program to ensure that the next man and the first woman on the moon will be American astronauts, using this as a launching pad to ensure that America is the first nation to plant its flag on Mars.

On the administration’s Middle East peace plan:

Last week, I announced a groundbreaking plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Recognizing that all past attempts have failed, we must be determined and creative in order to stabilize the region and give millions of young people the chance to realize a better future.

On the Islamic State:

Three years ago, the barbarians of ISIS held over 20,000 square miles of territory in Iraq and Syria. Today, the ISIS territorial caliphate has been 100 percent destroyed, and the founder and leader of ISIS -- the bloodthirsty killer known as Al-Baghdadi—is dead.

On the night that U.S. Special Forces Operators ended al-Baghdadi’s miserable life, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, received a call in the Situation Room. He was told that the brave men of the elite Special Forces team, that so perfectly carried out the operation, had given their mission a name, “Task Force 8-14.” It was a reference to a special day, August 14th, Kayla [Mueller]’s birthday...America's warriors never forgot Kayla, and neither will we.

On Iran and Qasem Soleimani:

Soleimani was the Iranian regime's most ruthless butcher, a monster who murdered or wounded thousands of American servicemembers in Iraq.

As the world’s top terrorist, Soleimani orchestrated the deaths of countless men, women, and children.

He directed the December assault and went on to assault U.S. forces in Iraq, was actively planning new attacks when we hit him very hard. And that's why, last month, at my direction, the U.S. military executed a flawless precision strike that killed Soleimani and terminated his evil reign of terror forever.

Our message to the terrorists is clear: You will never escape American justice. If you attack our citizens, you forfeit your life.

In recent months, we have seen proud Iranians raise their voices against their oppressive rulers. The Iranian regime must abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons, stop spreading terror, death, and destruction, and start working for the good of its own people.

Because of our powerful sanctions, the Iranian economy is doing very, very poorly. We can help them make a very good and short time recovery. It can all go very quickly, but perhaps they are too proud or too foolish to ask for that help. We are here. Let's see which road they choose. It is totally up to them.

On Afghanistan:

As we defend American lives, we are working to end America's wars in the Middle East.

In Afghanistan, the determination and valor of our warfighters has allowed us to make tremendous progress, and peace talks are now underway. I am not looking to kill hundreds of thousands of people in Afghanistan, many of them totally innocent.

It is also not our function to serve other nations as law enforcement agencies. These are warfighters that we have, the best in the world, and they either want to fight to win or not fight at all. We are working to finally end America's longest war and bring our troops back home.

Gordon Ahl is a senior at Georgetown University, studying international politics. He is an intern at Lawfare and the Brookings Institution.

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