WASHINGTON — Addressing a deeply divided nation, President Donald Trump called upon lawmakers Tuesday night to “summon the unity” to make good on long-standing promises to fix the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and fractured immigration systems, infusing his presidency with a sense of optimism, for at least one high-profile night.
“To every citizen watching at home tonight, no matter where you have been, or where you come from, this is your time,” Trump declared in his State of the Union address. “If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in America, then you can dream anything, you can be anything, and together, we can achieve anything.”
Despite his calls for bipartisanship, Trump spoke with tensions running high on Capitol Hill. An impasse over immigration prompted a three-day government shutdown earlier this year, and lawmakers appear no closer to resolving the status of the “Dreamers” — young people living in the U.S. illegally ahead of a new Feb. 8 deadline for funding operations. The parties have also clashed this week over the plans of Republicans on the House intelligence committee to release a classified memo on the Russia investigation involving Trump’s presidential campaign — a decision the White House backs but the Justice Department is fighting.
The controversies that have dogged Trump — and the ones he has created— have overshadowed strong economic gains during his first year in office. His approval ratings have hovered in the 30s for much of his presidency, and just 3 in 10 Americans said the United States was heading in the right direction, according to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. In the same survey, 67 percent of Americans said the country was more divided because of Trump.
At times, Trump’s address appeared to be aimed more at validating his first year in office than setting the course for his second. He devoted significant time to touting the tax overhaul he signed at the end of last year, promising the plan will “provide tremendous relief for the middle class and small businesses.” He also highlighted the decision made early in his first year to withdraw the U.S. from a sweeping Asia-Pacific trade pact, declaring: “The era of economic surrender is totally over.”
He spoke about potential agenda items for 2018 in broad terms, including a call for $1.5 trillion in new infrastructure spending and partnerships with states and the private sector. He touched only briefly on issues like health care that have been at the center of the Republican Party’s policy agenda for years.
Tackling the sensitive immigration debate that has roiled Washington, Trump redoubled his recent pledge to offer a path to citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants — as part of a package that would also require increased funding for border security, including a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, ending the nation’s visa lottery method and revamping the current legal immigration system. Some Republicans are wary of the hardline elements of Trump’s plan and it’s unclear whether his blueprint could pass Congress.
Trump played to the culture wars, alluding to his public spat with professional athletes who led protests against racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem, declaring that paying tribute to the flag is a “civic duty.”
Republicans led multiple rounds of enthusiastic applause during the speech, but for the opposition party it was a more somber affair. Democrats provided a short spurt of polite applause for Trump as he entered the chamber, but offered muted reactions throughout the speech. A cluster of about two dozen Democrats, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, remained planted firmly in their seats, staring sternly at the president and withholding applause.
After devastating defeats in 2016, Democrats are hopeful that Trump’s sagging popularity can help the party rebound in November’s midterm elections. In a post-speech rebuttal, Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy, the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, was seeking to undercut Trump’s optimistic tone and remind voters of the personal insults and attacks often leveled by the president.
“Bullies may land a punch,” Kennedy said, according to excerpts from his remarks. “They might leave a mark. But they have never, not once, in the history of our United States, managed to match the strength and spirit of a people united in defense of their future.”
On international affairs, Trump warned of the dangers from “rogue regimes,” like Iran and North Korea, terrorist groups, like the Islamic State, and “rivals” like China and Russia “that challenge our interests, our economy and our values.” Calling on Congress to lift budgetary caps and boost spending on the military, Trump said that “unmatched power is the surest means of our defense.”
First lady Melania Trump, who has largely stayed out of the spotlight following the latest allegations of Trump infidelity, arrived at the capitol ahead of her husband to attend a reception with guests of the White House. Those sitting alongside the first lady included an Ohio welder who the White House says will benefit from the new tax law and the parents of two Long Island teenagers who were believed to have been killed by MS-13 gang members.
TWIN FALLS — A California man was shot Monday evening on Washington Street North, police say.
Twin Falls Police officers responded at about 7:10 p.m. to a shooting in the 600 block of Washington Street North, Lt. Terry Thueson told the Times-News Tuesday morning.
Police are not releasing the names of the person shot or the shooter until details can be worked out, Thueson said. No arrests have been made.
A 36-year-old man from California was shot and fled a block away to the Oasis Stop and Go at Washington Street and Filer Avenue, Thueson said. The man was taken to St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center; his injuries are not life-threatening.
A 31-year-old man from Twin Falls fired the shots, Thueson said. Detectives are continuing to investigate.
“We are hoping to release more information within a few days,” he said.
BOISE — Idaho lawmakers on Tuesday ushered in Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s $200 million sweeping tax cut plan, marking the first tax relief proposal introduced during the 2018 legislative session.
“Arguably, this bill is the biggest tax reduction bill we’ve seen in the years that I’ve been in the Idaho Legislature and maybe in Idaho history,” said House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, who pitched the governor’s tax cut plan to the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.
Otter’s bill includes reducing personal income and corporate tax rates by 0.475 percent and creating a $130 Idaho child tax credit.
The multipronged plan seeks to align Idaho’s income tax code to recent federal changes included in the Republican tax overhaul signed into law by President Donald Trump. The federal policy cuts tax rates and nearly doubles the standard income deduction. It also caps or eliminates some popular itemized deductions and sets the personal exemptions to zero.
Idahoans are estimated to pay roughly $100 million more next year if the state conforms to the federal policy if they don’t pass any other tax relief.
Lowering all seven of Idaho’s personal income tax rate brackets will reduce the state’s general fund by $144.5 million. Meanwhile, cutting the corporate income tax rate reduces the fund by another $15.1 million and the child tax credit slashes the fund by $42.3 million.
In total, the plan calls for little more than $200 million in tax relief. Couple that amount with the expected $100 million boost of revenue from the tax overhaul, the estimated reduction to Idaho’s $3.5 billion general fund is $104.5 million.
The Idaho Legislature typically syncs the state’s tax code with the federal version each year to make it easier for residents and businesses to do their taxes, as well as avoid having to keep separate accounting books to track the different rules. Yet Idaho code doesn’t include a child tax credit in its state income tax laws, so many of Idaho’s large families are expected to take a bigger financial hit next year if Idaho lawmakers do nothing to offset the federal overall.
Otter had originally proposed an $85 child tax credit, but critics had argued that the amount was too low to help families recover financially from the federal tax overhaul.
The House Revenue and Taxation Committee introduced the bill Tuesday with the panel’s two Democratic lawmakers voting against it. The bill must now pass a full hearing. Even if the legislation advances out of committee, it’s not unusual for tax cut bills to be amended or drastically rewritten in the final hours of the session.
“This tax cut is at best rushed, at worst, reckless,” said House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise. “I’ve grown tired of the majority party in the House preaching fiscal responsibility and personal responsibility while embracing tax policies that demonstrate neither.”
Sponsors of the legislation include Otter, Moyle, House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Boise.
BURLEY — The Cassia County Sheriff’s Office has found the pickup truck of a person wanted in connection with Monday’s downtown fire and bomb planted nearby.
The bomb’s fuse had been lit, but it did not explode.
Cassia County Undersheriff George Warrell said the white Nissan truck was found at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday.
No arrests have been made, and it’s not clear if police are seeking the driver as a witness or a suspect.
The fire gutted the building at 1222 Overland Ave., and the pipe bomb was found across the street tucked in the door handle of a new unopened business, Kassiani Restaurant, Bakery and Events, 1229 Overland Ave.
Both buildings are owned by businessman Brek Pilling. He also owns the building south of the one consumed in the fire, which was also damaged by smoke and water.
Burley Fire Department Chief Shannon Tolman said both vacant buildings are a total loss.
Firefighters found the bomb while working on the fire.
“The vehicle was found at a Burley location. We’re not releasing any more information at this point,” Warrell said.
The sheriff’s office is working with the state fire marshal and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in the investigation.
“We’re trying to put all the pieces together at this point,” Warrell said.
One thing appears to be clear to investigators: The fire was an arson.
“The cause of the fire at this point is only speculation,” he said.
The 911 call reporting the fire came in at 1 a.m. Monday.
Fire crews were at the building through the night and most of the day, removing debris and looking for evidence by the afternoon.
Tolman, the fire chief, said the department sprayed about 100,000 gallons of water. The basement of the burned building is full of water.
The southbound lane on Overland Avenue in front of the building and the building next door was still cordoned off Tuesday, with debris piled on the sidewalk.
On Monday, a two-block section stretching from Main Street to 14th Street on Overland Avenue was closed to traffic and pedestrians while the bomb was detonated by explosives experts from Twin Falls.
Late Monday, authorities released photos of the pickup truck and asked for the public’s help finding it. It wasn’t immediately clear Tuesday what led authorities to the vehicle.
Police also released photos of the capped pipe bomb found at the restaurant.
The sheriff’s office asks that anyone with information about the fire or attempted bombing call 208-878-2252.
For an earlier report on the incident, click here.
SHOSHONE — A Hollister man was shot by a Shoshone Police officer early Tuesday morning, Idaho State Police say.
The unnamed officer had stopped Jesus J. Malagon, 30, for a traffic infraction within the city limits at about 1 a.m. when Malagon drove away, ISP spokesman Tim Marsano said in a statement.
The officer pursued Malagon, who crashed his vehicle near 580 North and 450 West in Lincoln County. Malagon fired shots at the officer, who returned fire, hitting Malagon with at least one round, Marsano said.
Malagon was flown to St. Alphonsus Medical Center in Boise.
The officer was not injured and is on administrative leave. The Critical Incident Task Force, led by the ISP, is investigating.