State of the Union address overshadowed by 'secret memo' and Mueller investigation

Donald Trump Credit: AP

To describe Donald Trump as a divisive figure is the understatement of the century.

During his State of the Union address last night, the great divide was as deep as the Grand Canyon.

Republicans cheered every statement from the President. Democrats looked appalled.

Half of the chamber behaved like they had just won the jackpot; the other half as if they had been diagnosed with a terminal disease.

As expected, he promoted his tax cuts and the booming stock market, and talked about the steel in America’s spine. He relished saying that unemployment is at a 45-year low.

Trump called this a “new American moment.” He urged citizens to start living the American Dream.

But Trump made no concessions to his opponents.

He announced that the military prison at Guantanamo Bay would be kept open indefinitely.

He threatened to cut off aid to those who voted against the US at the United Nations.

All controversial, of course, but not unexpected.

His opponents will take comfort in something else: that the news cycle is merciless to Trump.

Within hours the US cable channels were not talking about this speech, but about the “secret memo".

That conspiratorial Republican document claims the investigation into Russian collusion is being shaped by anti-Trump forces inside the FBI.

Democrats call it dangerous, paranoid nonsense designed to undermine confidence in the FBI.

So despite the cheers and standing ovations last night, President Trump remains besieged in the White House, haunted by the Mueller investigation, and with the lowest approval ratings of any recent American leader.

2018 won’t be defined - or even shaped - by what Trump said overnight.The speech was theatre, not political consequence.

This year will be shaped instead by the decision-making of a man who was not even in the Chamber last night - Robert Mueller. He must decide whether to charge the President with obstruction of justice.

American politics will be determined by the Congressional elections in November, when Trump’s opponents hope to regain power in the House and the Senate.

Donald Trump cannot be counted out.

His support among Republicans - as we saw overnight - is stunningly resilient.

Many of his loyal voters still see him as a disruptive genius.

But Mueller has yet to reveal his hand.

So the President is now existing in a twilight world - receiving rapturous applause from his allies in Congress while fearing that investigators are about to come crashing into the Oval Office.