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Trump touts ‘renewal of American spirit’

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President Donald Trump has said the US is witnessing a "renewal of the American spirit", as he delivered his first speech to Congress.

Adopting a measured, upbeat tone, the Republican president spoke of a "new chapter of American greatness".

Mr Trump condemned recent vandalism of Jewish cemeteries and a shooting in Kansas that left an Indian man dead.

His primetime address sought to bolster his low approval ratings after a bumpy start to his fledgling presidency.

At the outset of Tuesday night's hour-long speech, Mr Trump tackled recent suspected hate crimes, saying "we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its very ugly forms".

On immigration, he dangled the intriguing possibility of a major policy shift towards a goal that eluded his two predecessors, insisting that "real and positive" reform was possible.

That line came hours after he told news anchors off the record at a White House lunch that he might be open to granting legal status to undocumented immigrants.

In his remarks on Capitol Hill, the president also talked tough on the issue, pledging to make US communities safer "by finally enforcing our immigration laws".

He defended his early actions in office, touting his moves to withdraw the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and order work to start on a US-Mexico border wall.

But the most thunderous ovation of the night came when a war widow wept as Mr Trump paid tribute to her husband.

Navy Seal Ryan Owens died in a controversial US raid on a suspected al-Qaeda base in Yemen, days into Mr Trump's presidency. Several Yemeni civilians, including children, were also believed to have been killed, leading to questions over the operation's readiness and effectiveness.

The navy seal's father refused to meet President Trump when his son's body was returned home last month.

"Ryan's legacy is etched into eternity," Mr Trump told the grieving Carryn Owens, who sobbed and looked upwards.
It was one of the rare moments when lawmakers on both sides of the aisle applauded.

Despite the president's appeal for both parties to "unite for the good of our country", Democratic lawmakers mostly sat in silence or openly laughed at parts of the speech.

Mr Trump's feel-good rallying cry for national unity, some noted, was in stark contrast to his doom-laden inauguration speech of a month ago.

In his concluding remarks, the president – whose political honeymoon has been soured by acrimonious spats with the media - said "the time for trivial fights is behind us".

Among US First Lady Melania Trump's special guests in the gallery were three California residents whose relatives were killed by people in the US illegally.

At least a dozen Democrats brought as their guests young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children.

Former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear delivered the Democratic rebuttal to the speech, accusing Republicans of planning to "rip affordable health insurance" from Americans and being "Wall Street's champion".

In a Fox News interview broadcast earlier on Tuesday, Mr Trump gave himself an overall "A plus" for effort, adding that "in terms of messaging, I would give myself a C or a C plus".

According to a CNN/ORC poll of about 500 speech watchers, 57% said they had had a very positive reaction to President Trump's Congress address, with seven out of 10 saying they believed his policies would move the US in the right direction.

His popularity, however, has hit a historic low for modern presidents after a month in office - just 44% of Americans think he is doing a good job, according to RealClearPolitics.

Mr Trump's young presidency has been overshadowed by missteps including a high-profile court defeat to his controversial travel ban and the firing of a top aide.


Source: BBC



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